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November 11, 2018

Euthanasia Pioneer Nitschke warns of ‘beg and grovel’ legislation

Thomas Manch, The Dominion Post

A proposed law to allow voluntary death for the terminally ill has been labelled “beg and grovel” legislation by euthanasia pioneer Dr Philip Nitschke.

The first doctor to administer euthanasia, Nitschke is holding public talks and instructional workshops on the subject with his pro-euthanasia group Exit International this week.

On Thursday, about 30 members gathered in a meeting room behind St Andrew’s church in Wellington to discuss in detail how to end their lives.

Nitschke said all adults had a right to choose death and,  as populations aged, there were increasingly compelling social reasons to want to die.

“This idea of waiting around till you’re satisfying some very exhaustive and stringent requirements of levels of sickness, is going to be shown to be wanting.”

Parliament is currently considering the End of Life Choice bill, with the last of more than 3000 public oral submissions being heard on Monday.

The bill would allow New Zealanders aged 18 and older who suffer from a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months, or a grievous and untreatable medical condition, to choose an assisted death.

“That is a privilege granted, that is not a right … I call it the ‘beg and grovel’ legislation,” Nitschke said.

“You have to go and see a panel of doctors and convince them you’re sick enough … that is, in the case of many of the laws we see, when you’re almost dead.

“Don’t get the idea that you’re in control, because you’re not in control.”

Nitschke said there should only be two criteria to permit euthanasia: if a person was an adult, so they could understand the permanence of death, and that they were of sound mind.

“You don’t have to give a reason, it’s a right to have these drugs.”

Exit International members have faced considerable scrutiny in recent years, with Wellington members stopped in a police breath-testing checkpoint after a meeting in 2016. The checkpoint was later deemed unjustified by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Wellington branch chairwoman Susan Austen was in May found guilty  on two charges of importing pet euthaniser pentobarbitone, after being acquitted of aiding the suicide of another member, Annemarie Treadwell.

To prevent any legal issues on Thursday, attendees signed a disclaimer confirming they would not take any notice of the information Nitschke was providing and would not record the workshop.

Meetings will be held in Nelson on Saturday, and Auckland on Tuesday.

Police are aware of the Nitschke workshops, but a spokeswoman declined to answer further questions.

Act MP David Seymour, responsible for the End of Life Choice bill, warned against an approach to euthanasia that sat outside strict safeguards in law.

“I don’t think that you should be able to help someone end their life for social reasons … I don’t think that it’s right to help somebody end their life unless you have very strict oversight, because if you don’t have all the various safeguards like in the End of Life Choice bill, then there is a possibility of abuse.”