Sunday Star Times 03 February 2008
A New Zealand woman who was not terminally ill killed herself with lethal drugs she smuggled home from Mexico after seeking advice from Australian euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, known as Dr Death. Details of the Wellington woman’s death believed to be the first such death of a physically fit person in New Zealand have surfaced as Nitschke, head of pressure group Exit International, arrived in New Zealand to hold suicide seminars in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch. The revelations have prompted harsh criticism of Nitschke, who encourages euthanasia supporters to travel to Mexico to buy the drug phenobarbitone, commonly called Nembutal and used by vets to destroy animals.
“We are appalled at this woman’s death it’s a great tragedy. It’s outrageous [Nitschke] is teaching people about this and getting away with it,” said Right to Life New Zealand spokesman Ken Orr. The case was worse because the woman was not suffering a fatal illness, he said. “It’s sad to see vulnerable people being enticed by his programme to commit suicide.”
Nitschke was yesterday unrepentant over his role in the death, saying it was “arrogant and paternalistic” to review someone else’s decision about when to die. “You’re not in her shoes. She obviously made an assessment and decided her life was not worth living any more. You can’t simply look at the medical records.” However, he admitted most people found euthanasia more palatable for severely ill patients. “I don’t doubt if we had prevented her to have access to do what she did, she would have gone and done it in a far more common way.”