Suspended physician under police investigation in every Australian state over possible involvement in nearly 20 deaths
Notorious Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has been in the news again.
Last week, it was reported that his organisation Exit International was establishing a London office to 'cope with demand' from UK citizens for assisted suicide.
The group, which charges members a fee to access online information and attend workshops to discuss 'peaceful' methods of suicide, has attracted fierce criticism in Australia, where it was originally set up.
Its activities include:
It has been further reported that Nitschke has enraged victims of crime groups by his suggestion that killers serving life sentences should be able to choose the timing of their own 'peaceful' deaths behind bars.
On 28 September, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that he is being investigated by police in every Australian state over his possible role in nearly 20 deaths in the past three years, all of them apparently suicides.
The latest investigation, by Victoria Police, concerns the death of a 55-year-old Geelong man who allegedly killed himself using a do-it-yourself kit bought though a company affiliated with Exit International.
All of the deaths being investigated involved the use of the principal two suicide methods promoted by Dr Nitschke: the lethal drug, Nembutal or a nitrogen inhalant device.
Nitschke currently faces expulsion by the Australian Medical Association when its Northern Territory branch Council meets in November, after a move to suspend him last month failed after an error in the paperwork.
The Medical Board of Australia suspended him in July. The decision, using the board's emergency powers to 'protect public health and safety', came after he admitted in an interview that he had supported a 45-year-old Perth man, Nigel Brayley, in his decision to commit suicide, despite knowing the man was not terminally ill.
The AMA has cited the same 'adverse event', saying Dr Nitschke's 'professional behaviour … was not consistent with the high professional and ethical standards for the Australian medical profession promoted by the AMA'.
Documents obtained by The Sunday Age reveal there are currently five separate medical board investigations, one dating as far back as 2011, into Dr Nitschke's conduct.
Nitschke is an extremist and self-publicist whose presence in the UK puts the lives of vulnerable elderly, depressed and disabled people at grave risk.
The Suicide Act (covering England and Wales), as amended in 2009, states that 'an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or an attempted suicide of another person' is illegal, 'whether or not a suicide, or an attempt at suicide, occurs'; the emphasis is on whether the accused 'intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide'.
What Nitschke is doing must surely fall within the scope of these offences. The information shared by his organisation in his London seminars and on the internet is surely capable of encouraging or assisting people to commit suicide and his activities are clearly intended to encourage or assist people by offering them advice about the 'best way' of doing it.
Nitschke's activities present a real and present risk to vulnerable members of the British public.