Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 10:52 UK

Doctor defends suicide workshops

Dr Philip Nitschke
Dr Nitschke is due to hold two UK workshops next week

An Australian euthanasia expert who plans to hold workshops in the UK for people who want to end their own lives has defended his methods.

Dr Philip Nitschke rejected accusations that he was encouraging vulnerable people to take their lives.

He said he was offering people information to "allow them to make choices in their best interest".

Pro-euthanasia campaign group Dignity in Dying said his advice was "irresponsible" and illegal.

Dr Nitschke told the BBC: "When you give people information, you empower them. You allow them to make choices in their best interest.

"If you deny them information - which is the way the current law is structured here, so you can't get information easily or legally - people flounder around in the darkness and then they use the easiest method to die."

He's got no idea whether they're able to make informed choices, they may be depressed, he doesn't know what they'll do with the information

Sarah Wootton
Dignity in Dying

He said hanging was the most common way elderly people in Britain used to end their lives, and added: "Now, you don't need much information for that."

He continued: "We make it quite clear that there's no encouragement going on here. We simply give people the information that they are in a position to make decisions in their best interest.

"You shouldn't be patronising the elderly and saying 'you can't have that information; it's far too dangerous for you'."

Dr Nitschke, who aims to help people to die in countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal, says he has created a machine to allow people to give themselves lethal injections at the push of a button.

His methods have prompted criticism from Dignity in Dying, which wants assisted suicide to be made legal.

Chief executive Sarah Wootton told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think what Philip's doing is illegal, clearly dangerous and crucially it doesn't protect the vulnerable.

"He's got no idea whether they're able to make informed choices, they may be depressed, he doesn't know what they'll do with the information.


"I think it's very concerning. I don't think he's acting from bad motives - I need to emphasise that - but I do think that what he's doing is irresponsible."

Dr Nitschke had to find an alternative venue in Dorset after Bournemouth council officers withdrew permission to hold his workshop in one of their buildings. A second booking, at a hotel, was also cancelled.

The planned workshops, in London on 13 October and Bournemouth on 16 October, are the first to be held in the UK.

Dr Nitschke was the first doctor in the world to administer lethal injections to end four patients' lives after voluntary euthanasia was made legal in the Northern Territory of Australia in 1996.

The Australian federal government overturned the law nine months later.

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