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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Philip Nitschke's recent suspension from
medical practice is only surprising because
he has been operating without sanction for
almost two decades.
Dr Nitschke's latest br ush with controver sy
was sparked by his decision to give
information to a 45 year-old suicidal man
who was not terminally ill, but he has been
at this for year s.
Nitschke ha s been involved in many
publicised cases of people who were not
ter minally ill. These include Gold Coast
woman Nancy Crick, Lisette Nigot from
Per th and Bundaberg couple Sydney and
Marjorie Croft. It ha s r ecently come to light
that two men in their 20s took their lives,
Lucas Taylor in 2012 and Joe Waterman
last year, after accessing information from
All this illustr ates euthanasia or assisted
suicide cannot be made safe. People in
times of crisis are vulnerable and need our
suppor t, not a lethal dose.
No law could protect vulner able people
from the threat of euthanasia if it were
made available. The law is having a hard
enough time protecting vulnerable people
now, as these cases clearly show.
We saw that with the failed experiment
of euthanasia in the Nor ther n Ter ritory
in 1996-97 where Nitschke was the
euthanasia doctor. Nitschke co-author ed
an ar ticle in The Lancet that found "Four
of the seven cases [of people applying for
euthanasia] had symptoms of depression."
The NT experience demonstrated so -
called safeguards collapse in the face of
desperate people going doctor to doctor
seeking someone willing to approve their
On depression, Nitschke says, "the idea
that psychiatrists should be the ultimate
arbiter s does not sit well with me or many
of the people that come to see me. I
would say common sense is a good enough
indicator. It's not that hard to work out
whether you are dealing with a per son
who is able to make r ational decisions or
not." But it is difficult for professionals to
a person is
especially if they
have a ter minal
Over the year s ,
lobbying for a
for people with
a ter minal illness
to advocating the
same for the so-called
hopelessly ill and now to
doing so for what they call
More than ten year s ago, Nitschke told
National Review Online, "someone needs
to provide this knowledge, tr aining, or
recourse necessar y to anyone who wants
it, including the depr essed, the elderly
bereaved, the troubled teen".
Last year he said, "we might find people
at the age of 20 saying, 'I am not in any
treatable way affected by a psychiatric
malady, and I want to die.' Now I don't
think we should be stopping those people.
If we can't fix a person, we shouldn't
be saying we are going to keep you in
some kind of safe house until you see the
benefits and joys of existence."
So where is this campaign for euthana sia
going? We can see the danger s in Belgium,
wher e in 10 year s legal euthanasia has
moved from being reser ved for ter minally
ill people to now covering children and
Here, too, Nitschke is on the record
suppor ting child euthanasia,
saying, "the Belgians ar e to
be applauded for their
In Belgium there
are five deaths
every day. A study
almost one third of
cases of euthanasia
in Flanders were
study found only half
the euthanasia cases are
r epor ted as the law requires.
Suicidal people deser ve our care and
compassion, not a lethal dose. Care and
compassion mean working with people to
find the source of their fear, pain, sadness
or depression so that we can help them
overcome these difficult challenges. The
solution is not to remove the per son, but
to deal with the problem.
There's nothing dignified about dying
because you feel there are no better
options. We need to provide the better
options, not co- oper ate in a person's
desperate suicidal act.
Palliative care can provide many of those
PHILIP NITSCHKE AND
People in times
of crisis are
need our support,
not a lethal dose.
(back) Isabel Lydon, (middle, l-r) Sophie Kemp, Ashar
Worley, Ella Grant, Abi Teah-Wilson (front, l-r) Ma z vita
Takawir a and Lily Davidson of St Brigid's Raymond Ter r ace
Green Team par ticipated in the recent "EnviroWeek ".
Students of St Peter 's All Saints College Maitland chose
'detention 4 detention' in solidarity with asylum seeker s.
Bishop Bill Wright and Mrs Patricia Banister cut a cake
to celebrate 50 year s of Caritas at a celebration held at
St Mary's Gateshead.
better options. No patient receiving
competent palliative car e should be in
pain. Good doctor s and nurses can relieve
symptoms. If you or your loved one is not
getting good palliative car e, get a better
GPs too need to be alive to the possibility
that their patients don't know about
palliative care and they need to ensure a
referral when appropriate.
Most impor tantly, gover nments need
to make sure palliative care is available.
Patients often don't have good access,
especially if they live in a regional area.
The Medical Board's suspension of Philip
Nitschke highlights the dangers. Neither
euthanasia nor assisted suicide can ever be
Jeremy Stuparich is Public Policy Director
for the Australian Catholic Bishops
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