From: STUFF.co.NZ


Euthanasia doctor poised to support woman on attempted murder charge

30 March 2003


Dr Death is supporting euthanasia advocate Lesley Martin at her next court appearance on an attempted murder charge.

Exit Australia head Dr Philip Nitschke, nicknamed Dr Death,

will take time out of his second euthanasia tour of New Zealand to attend the Wanganui woman's pre-depositions hearing in Wanganui District Court on April 9.

While in the country, he also plans to build one of his controversial carbon monoxide death machines to show along with his plastic suffocation bags at workshops and public meetings in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. And he will investigate producing the plastic 'exit' bags here.

Three weeks ago, Lesley Martin was charged with attempting to murder her terminally-ill mother, Joy, in 1999. Police began investigating last year after she revealed in her book To Die Like a Dog that she gave her mother a morphine overdose and smothered her with a pillow.

"What she has done is to say very openly what she has done - we as a society keep sticking our head in the sand over the issue of euthanasia," Nitschke said.

"She needs as much support as she can get."

Exit Australia has launched an appeal to help Martin cover legal expenses.

Straight after her court appearance, she and Nitschke will drive to Wellington to attend the first reading of New Zealand First MP Peter Brown's private member's bill "Death with Dignity" in parliament that afternoon.

"It's worked out really well for my trip," Nitschke says of the timing.

Martin plans to speak at some workshops and public meetings after a court-imposed order gagging her from talking publicly about euthanasia was lifted last week.

Nitschke, who arrives in Auckland on Wednesday for his 12- day tour, is no stranger to police attention. He remains under investigation over the death of a terminally-ill Queensland woman who took her life in front of 21 people.

His first workshop will be in Auckland on Thursday morning for Voluntary Euthanasia Society members only, but he will hold a public meeting at 7.30pm that day at the Quality Inn Rosepark hotel in Parnell. The controversial GP hopes his visit will add extra momentum to the euthanasia debate, which has heated up in New Zealand in recent months.

"Australia used to lead the world in euthanasia, but now we're dragging behind."

He helped four people die by lethal injection in Australia's Northern Territory before the state's euthanasia laws were overturned in 1997 after nine months in force. The state's legalising euthanasia law was a world-first.

New tougher customs laws make it impossible for him to bring one of the Australian-designed carbon monoxide generators with him, which give off toxic fumes. It is illegal to export or import devices from Australia, which are designed to assist suicide.

Instead, he plans to build one using basic hardware store supplies, a bag of saline with an intravenous attachment and nasal prongs plus some "easily obtained" chemicals.

"It should only take a couple of hours and shows how simple it is to make. It offers a quick, reliable death," he said.

While it will be shown in his workshops as an example, he has no plans to teach people how to make them.

"What drives these developments is because there is no legislation. People want legislation to allow them to have a peaceful death."

Australian law also prevents him bringing over any `exit' bags, a plastic bag with an elastic cuff, which fits over the head. He says people die peacefully from oxygen deprivation within about half an hour. A handful of New Zealanders have ordered them through his Australian euthanasia group, which produces them.

Nitschke is aware of the legal ramifications of promoting euthanasia.

All workshop attendees get a do-it-yourself handbook but must sign a disclaimer, stating none of the information will be used to advise, counsel or assist them or others to commit suicide.

"We're just trying to give accurate information so they can make informed decisions," Nitschke said.