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Nitschke faces new jail threat

Already under investigation by Melbourne homicide detectives for his role in the suicide of a local man, euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke is now facing possible criminal charges in New Zealand. The charges could result in him being jailed for three months or fined $10,000.

The Medical Council of New Zealand is meeting on February 14 to decide if Dr Nitschke unlawfully practised medicine by presenting workshops in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington earlier this month.

Dr Nitschke is not registered to practise medicine in New Zealand. If the council decides against him, the matter may be referred to the NZ Ministry of Health, which in turn would refer the matter to police.

Dr Nitschke has been invited to explain himself. If he fails to do so, the council said it would make its decision based on local media reports of the workshops.

A letter to Dr Nitschke strongly suggested that the council had already decided he was guilty of the offence, noting: “In April 2004 you were advised via your solicitor that the proposed workshops would amount to your practising medicine within the council’s definition.

“You were advised that if you intended to continue with the workshops, you would be considered to be practising medicine and would therefore need to be registered with the council. You have been made well aware of the council’s requirements.”

Dr Nitschke told The Sunday Age that he remained in the dark as to whether he would face extradition if charges were laid. “I’ve been talking to prominent lawyers in Australia and to people acting for me in New Zealand about how to deal with it,” he said.

He questioned whether “the provision of this sort of material (do-it-yourself extinction advice) to groups of healthy people is in fact practising medicine”. He said the workshops were only open to members of his organisation, Exit International, which had an average age of 75 years.

The Medical Council of New Zealand declined to comment.