Australia Euthanasia Advocate Arrested in New Zealand, Would Help Healthy Die

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 4, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Euthanasia Advocate Arrested in New Zealand, Would Help Healthy Die Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 4,

Wellington, New Zealand ( — Australia euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke was briefly arrested last week by authorities in New Zealand for bringing two banned books promoting assisted suicide there. Nitschke was released shortly thereafter and spent the weekend on a speaking tour throughout the island nation touting euthanasia.

Nitschke reportedly had in his possession two copies of a book about euthanasia called "The Peaceful Pill" that New Zealand has banned because it contains instructions for making suicide drugs.

Following the arrest, Nitschke showed edited versions of two films and is now risking a fine or prison term if officials find he showed parts promoting assisted suicide.

According to the Dominion Post, Nitschke showed clips of an elderly woman describing how to make a bag in a do-it-yourself suicide.

David Wilson, of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, told the newspaper that officials would only review the film Nitschke showed if a complaint is made.

If he is found to have contravened laws prohibiting the promotion of assisted suicide there, he could be fined $3,000 and face as much as 10 years in prison.

Wilson did tell the newspaper that his office will review the new "New Zealand edition" of Nitschke’s handbook on making suicide drugs, which he said was the same as the Australian edition with the objectionable pages ripped out.

"His thinking is that this will be enough to stop it being objectionable," Wilson said.

Meanwhile, Nitschke admitted that he would help a woman commit suicide who wasn’t terminally ill — going beyond what some euthanasia proponents propose.

According to The Age newspaper, Nitschke was accused of advising an Australia woman suffering from depression about how to obtain suicide drugs from Mexico. The 68-year-old woman eventually followed his instructions and killed herself.

"Yes, otherwise it effectively disregards and disrespects their views," he told AAP with respect to healthy people being allowed to engage in assisted suicide. "We are not uncomfortable with this debate going on."

Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and bioethics watchdog in the United States, said he’s surprised the media in Australia are shocked by Nitschke’s actions.

"He’s done it before in the Nancy Crick case, in which he admitted both that he and Crick knew she wasn’t terminally ill when he counseled her to commit suicide," Smith said.

"When I toured Australia in 2001, we made headlines proving that Nitschke wants his suicide pills to be made available to troubled teens," Smith added.

Smith explained how euthanasia advocates are moving in the direction of promoting assisted suicide to people other than the terminally ill.

He said assisted suicide is available to the depressed in the Netherlands, that the Swiss Supreme Court recently created a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill, and that some of Jack Kevorkian’s "patients" were not terminally ill.