New Zealand Medical Council Targets Euthanasia Advocate Philip Nitschke

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 21, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Zealand Medical Council Targets Euthanasia Advocate Philip Nitschke Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
February 21, 2006

Wellington, New Zealand ( — The Medical Council of New Zealand has referred euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke to the Health Ministry for unlawfully practicing medicine.

If the Health Ministry agrees, the Australian “Dr. Death” will not be prosecuted for ending the life of his patients, but for holding workshops teaching his methods to other euthanasia advocates. The Medical Council is considering these seminars to be medical consultations, and act that requires registration as a medical practitioner in New Zealand.

In January, the Council warned Nitschke that his workshops were in violation of the law, but Nitschke conducted his presentations anyway.

“At the time that Dr Nitschke presented his workshops, and despite having been made well aware of the Council’s requirements, he was not registered and did not hold an APC. Council therefore decided to refer the matter to the Ministry of Health to consider what, if any, further action is necessary,” read the Council’s statement.

Nitschke said that the content of his exit workshops has changed, and that the Council did not review his new presentation. He also expressed hope that the Council would have adopted a narrower interpretation of the definition of “practicing medicine.”

Council chairman John Campbell admitted that not all visiting doctors have been referred to the Health Ministry. He noted that the Council needed to focus on cases where there was an obvious risk to patient safety.

“We need to use our own judgment," said Campbell.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society has stepped up to condemn the Council for its action, accusing the Council of being unreasonable in their treatment of Nitschke.

Following Australia’s ban on using the Internet or telephone to promote euthanasia last year, Nitschke announced he would be moving his operation to New Zealand.