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THE AGE (Melbourne)


By Brett Foley, Medical Reporter

3 August, 2001 (Melbourne). Plans by euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke to develop a suicide pill appear likely to be dismissed by other interest groups this weekend as the Democrats and the Greens renew plans for private members’ bills to reinstate the Northern Territory’s right-to-die legislation.

Dr Nitschke could face opposition in his plans from the state-based Voluntary Euthanasia Societies, who fear the plan would damage their efforts to lobby for political and community support to enact euthanasia legislation in each state.

Dr Nitschke planned to seek at a euthanasia conference in Broken Hill today support for developing a pill, which people would be able to manufacture themselves at home from readily available ingredients.

He said rational people wishing to end their lives would be given the recipe for the pill, which would effectively bypass current laws.

Voluntary Euthanasia Society’s Victorian president, Dr Rodney Syme, said the society’s main focus was legislative change through a private member’s bill by Democrat Sandra Kanck to be debated in the South Australian Parliament next month.

“The pill is not really within our ambit because it is technically outside the law and there is a large element of irresponsibility about it. For example, it would fall into the wrong hands, such as someone with mental illness,” Dr Syme said.

However, he said one benefit of the suicide pill would be to force policy makers to deal with the issue or face a situation similar to “the bad old days of backyard abortions”.

Dr Nitschke said the pace of legislative change meant the suicide pill had to be developed to help people in the interim. The pill had to be safe, reliable and able to be made from simple ingredients so it could be available to any rational person wanting to end their life, he said. It would also have to be taken somewhere to be tested before use.

“These people are looking for a way out, a way to take control of their lives again and they are doing it in other ways now, so we shouldn’t erect more barriers for them,” he said.

Dr Nitschke conceded that the issue of how to distribute the suicide pill recipe while ensuring it did not fall into the hands of the young or the mentally ill was yet to be resolved.

He has received a grant of $58,000 from United States-based euthanasia organisation the Hemlock Society, but said further financial support would be needed for the suicide pill to be developed.

Senator Meg Lees said in a statement to be read at the Broken Hill conference today that the majority of Democrats were opposed to the Andrews bill of 1997 and she planned to introduce another private member’s bill to overturn it. The bill, introduced by Kevin Andrews, federal Liberal member for Menzies, overruled the Northern Territory’s right-to-die legislation.

This strengthens plans by Greens senator Bob Brown, who has pledged to introduce such a bill after the next federal election.

A spokesman for Senator Brown said he was pleased the Democrats would support him. He had already sought legal advice about whether the NT laws would still be viable if the Andrews bill was overthrown.

Also See:

(6 August, 2001) Euthanasia Conference Gives Overwhelming Support to Development of Suicide Pill