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RESEARCH: Australian scientist to look at the role of technology

The Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society accepted for publication in 2010 the article “Techniques to pass on: technology and euthanasia”  by Australian professor of Social Sciences Brian Martin.  Martin examined  a number of possible future paths three) for the development of euthanasia, focussing on the Australian State versus EXIT International situation.     


Proponents and opponents of euthanasia have argued passionately about whether it should be legalised. In Australia in the mid 1990s, following the world’s first legal euthanasia deaths, doctor Philip Nitschke initiated a different approach: a search for do-it-yourself technological means of dying with dignity. The Australian government has opposed this effort, especially through heavy censorship. The citizen efforts led by Nitschke have the potential to move the euthanasia issue from a debate about legalisation to a struggle over technology.


Exit’s approach (a 3rd path) sidesteps two types of controls: path 1’s legal controls (the path of continuation of laws that ban euthanasia) and path 2’s medical controls (the path of – formally or tacitly – legalising eutahanasia). If the push for access to euthanasia is seen as a social movement (McInerney, 2000), then Exit may be serving as a “radical flank” (Haines 1984): an approach seen as radical even by the mainstream movement. As such, it may provide a greater incentive for legalisation or better provision of hospice. Or, in the spirit of self-help movements in various fields, including the open-access and open-source movements, the search for technological means to peaceful death may become the main path.

To read the full article click here.