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 Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Australian euthanasia group plans 'exit bags'
Nancy Crick, photo from http://www.protection.net.au/nancycrick/
Nancy Crick's recent suicide reignited the euthanasia debate
A pro-euthanasia group in Australia is planning to distribute "exit bags" designed to help people commit suicide.

The founder and director of Exit Australia, Dr Philip Nitschke, said that at least 50 people were interested in obtaining the aids.

A death from low oxygen is a peaceful death

Dr Philip Nitschke
The bag fits over the head and sits snugly around the neck. As the user falls asleep, he or she gradually breathes in the oxygen in the bag until there is no longer enough to keep them alive.

Peter Beattie, the Premier of Queensland state, where the bags are made, said he would be seeking advice on whether the devices were legal. Euthanasia is banned throughout Australia, as is assisting suicide.

Exclusive distribution

Dr Nitschke told BBC News Online that as it was legal to end one's life in Australia, then he did not believe his group was breaking the law.

"Anyone can obtain a plastic bag", he said.

The bags will only be available to the 2,300 members of Exit Australia and are clearly marked as life-endangering. They are expected to be unveiled at a news conference on 20 August.

The euthanasia campaigner said they were an improved version of a bag previously imported from Canada.

Dr Nitschke said the "preferred method" of suicide would be pharmaceutically-induced, "but the government made it almost impossible to get those drugs".

Protest

Margaret Tighe, the president of anti-euthanasia group Right to Life Australia, called on the Queensland government to investigate the bags.

"There are many vulnerable people in the community who sadly feel that life is no longer worth living. With Nitschke's suicide bags so freely available, how many will die as a result?" she said in a statement.

Dr Nitschke gained notoriety after he helped four terminally ill patients commit suicide in Australia's Northern Territory following the brief legalisation of mercy killings in 1995.

He hit the headlines again in May when he was present at the suicide of cancer sufferer Nancy Crick at her home on Queensland's Gold Coast.

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Dominic Hughes
"Doctor Philip Nitschke was stopped by customs officials at Sydney Airport"
See also:

23 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
28 Nov 00 | Euthanasia
16 May 02 | Europe
01 Apr 02 | Europe
12 May 02 | Health
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