Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:25 UK

Dozens attend euthanasia workshop

Dr Nitschke plans to hold further workshops across the UK

Almost 100 people have attended the UK's first euthanasia workshop run by an Australian doctor.

Dr Philip Nitschke showed videos and talked about equipment and drugs needed to end a life, at the Hamilton Hall Hotel in Bournemouth, Dorset.

The doctor was held at Heathrow Airport under the Immigration and Asylum Act when he arrived in the UK on Saturday but was granted leave to stay.

Opponents say vulnerable people may be influenced by him "inappropriately".

Charles Beech, 76, from Ringwood, went to the workshop.

He said: "I often observe elderly people suffering long, lingering deaths.

"Let's get it organised, let's be fair to everyone.

"Why should it be so important for people to suffer an awful life, it is so wrong. In pain, agony and despair, it should be stopped."

Paul Waller and Edward Gwinnell explain why they came to the suicide workshop

Peter King, 66, from Christchurch, said: "I think he [Dr Nitschke] is brilliant.

"I think in 50 years time this whole thing of letting people suffer will be looked back on like when they burnt witches."

Dr Nitschke told the gathering of over-50s about the people he has helped with his "Deliverance Machine", the drugs to use for a peaceful death and the jail sentence awaiting anyone who helps assist a suicide.

They also watched video testaments of people who have killed themselves after suffering terminal illnesses such as cancer.

Anyone who wanted to attend the more in-depth workshops had to be over 50 or seriously ill and pay £25 to become an Exit member.

Dr Nitschke, who founded the right-to-die organisation Exit International, said: "We were aware of the demographic in Bournemouth. We knew that there was a lot of retired folk down here.

"They want options, they want choices. They know the choices or changes to legislation are likely to occur one day but they don't have the time to wait."

'Inappropriately influenced'

But critics have claimed his views could influence vulnerable people.

Alex Russell, the vicar of Pennington and chaplain of Oak Haven Hospice in Lymington, Hampshire, said: "I would always defend someone's right to voice an opinion about something and to say controversial things.

"The difficulty may be if people who are psychologically unable to think as clearly as they might, or people who are still quite young and forming their opinions, might be influenced by him inappropriately."

Dr Nitschke plans to hold similar events in Brighton, Stroud, Gloucestershire and Glasgow.

The doctor, from Darwin, administered lethal injections to end four patients' lives after voluntary euthanasia was made legal in Australia's Northern Territory in 1996.

The Australian federal government overturned the law nine months later.

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