Australia Euthanasia Advocate: Assisted Suicide Speech Proved Popular

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Euthanasia Advocate: Assisted Suicide Speech Proved Popular Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 7
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — A leading advocate of euthanasia in Australia says a lawmaker’s recent speech with explicit instructions on how to commit assisted suicide has proven popular. He indicated his web site has received thousands of new visitors as a result.

South Australian Democrat Sandra Kanck gave the speech at the end of last month on how disabled or elderly patients can kill themselves. The speech was designed to get around an Australian law that prohibits disseminating assisted suicide or euthanasia instructions over the Internet or phone.

Because Kanck is protected by legislative privileges, her speech can be posted online.

Since then, Phillip Nitschke, considered Australia’s "Dr. Death" says people have been flocking to his web site to learn about how to kill themselves.

After posting Kanck’s speech, he told ABC News that the amount of visitors to her web page more than doubled in the first two days.

The web site is not based in Australia and Nitschke told ABC he doubted Australian officials would try to go after people who read the speech.

"We believe that there is very little likelihood that the authorities will do anything," he said. "When they introduced this law they put it there really, I suppose, to position it as a deterrent with very little, I suppose, likelihood that they would use it."

During the speech, Kanck, a member of South Australia’s Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a pro-euthanasia group, said the laws were an unfair restriction on free speech.

"The effect of this odious legislation will be to force desperate people to commit suicide by the most appalling of means," she claimed.

She claimed people wanting to kill themselves would not find out how to do so, even though her speech gave exact instructions.

"People looking for simple ways to end their lives by accessing this speech are not going to find them," she said.

However, speaking for the Catholic Church, Melbourne Bishop Christopher Prowse condemned the speech. He called it "bizarre and irresponsible."

"It would give encouragement to people who are already very fragile to look at options which aren’t options at all," he said. "They are only despairing cries for help."

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal agreed and said the speech was an abuse of the parliamentary privileges given to lawmakers.

After the speech, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said that anyone who killed themselves as a result of Kanck’s speech would make her have blood on her hands. According to a report in The Advertiser, he said he would work to make sure her speech was not posted on the parliamentary web site.

“I have been in Parliament for nearly 21 years and also been around Parliament for nearly 30," he said. "I have never seen anything more shameless or shameful.”

Normally an individual can be fined $110,000 and an organization $500,000 for spreading assisted suicide or euthanasia information on how to kill someone.