Australian Euthanasia Activist Promotes New "Suicide Pill"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australian Euthanasia Activist Promotes New "Suicide Pill"

by Maria Gallagher Editor
June 12, 2004

Sydney, Australia ( — The man some call "Dr. Death" is now promoting his own euthanasia pill. Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke, the founder of Exit Australia, says he has come up with a recipe for a pill that provides "peaceful suicide."

But don’t expect the recipe to appear in a handbook at your neighborhood pharmacy. The recipe is only available to member of Exit Australia.

The pro-euthanasia group has about 3,000 members, with an average age of 75.

"We’ve been quite careful to make it clear that we won’t be putting this on the Internet so people can kill themselves with no forethought," Nitschke told members of the news media.

Legislation has been introduced outlawing the use of the Internet to promote suicide in Australia. The measure would also prevent Exit from using its website to provide instruction on how to commit suicide.

However, news media reports have indicated the pill is made up of ingredients such as nicotine and alcohol and takes only a few days to make. And no elaborate equipment is required — Nitschke said the pill can be concocted in an average kitchen.

The euthanasia advocate adds that the pill-making process should be considered legal.

"No government will be able to bring itself to ban these substances, so I think the process is safe," Nitschke told the press. "And if people can do it all themselves, with no help, there is no breach of the law."

However, Nitschke has run into legal trouble before. Last year, authorities at the Sydney airport took away his carbon monoxide-generating death machine. The euthanasia activist had planned to take the machine to the U.S.

To Nitschke’s knowledge, no one has actually taken his euthanasia pill — yet.

Nitschke was quoted as saying, "We are certainly not saying this product is the best or final one."

Nitschke’s quest to create a euthanasia pill has been explored in the documentary "Mademoiselle and the Doctor." The movie is premiering at the Sydney Film Festival.

The documentary is based on the story of the death of Lisette Nigot, a 79-year-old Frenchwoman.

"After 80 years of a good life, I have [had] enough of it," she wrote in a suicide note "I want to stop it before it gets bad."

Nigot took a lethal overdose after attending a workshop by Nitschke. She was neither ill nor in pain.

The documentary, which was directed by Janine Hosking, is being released in the U.S. next week.

In 1996, the world’s first voluntary euthanasia legislation premiered in the Northern Territory, but was overturned by Prime Minister John Howard’s federal government.

Howard himself spoke about Nigot’s tragic 2002 death.

"I’m appalled to think that we may have reached a situation in this country where any aid or assistance or encouragement is given to a healthy person (to commit suicide)," Howard said.
Nitschke calls such deaths "rational suicide."

Recently, Nitschke made headlines following revelations that euthanasia advocate Nancy Crick was cancer-free when she took her own life two years ago.

Nitschke was closely associated with Crick’s death. Queensland police are now trying to determine whether to file charges against those who helped Crick commit suicide.

Trust, a group of doctors, lawyers, and others who oppose euthanasia, has said that Nitschke tailors his message for vulnerable people who have lost hope.

"The product they are buying with Nitschke…is death on demand," Trust spokemsan Dr. David van Gend has said in published reports.

"Forget the propaganda about terminal patients in terrible pain – Nitschke’s product is for a much wider market: troubled teenagers, angry old men who don’t want to go to nursing homes, or euthanasia activists like Nancy Crick," van Gend added.

"Everyone should be free to kill and be killed at the time of mutual choosing," according to Nitschke’s philosophy, van Gend said.

Trust compares Nitschke to U.S. suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, who was eventually jailed after administering a lethal injection to a terminally ill man.

"Nitschke needs to hear the law speak the words, ‘Sir, consider yourself stopped,’" van Gend said.

Related web sites:
Queensland Right to Life –