Out in the Field with Herald chief reporter Annemarie Field: Eastbourne hasn’t seen the last of Dr Nitschke

Eastbourne Herald chief reporter Annemarie Field
Eastbourne Herald chief reporter Annemarie Field

I CAN’T help feeling a little bit sorry for the pro-euthanasia doctor who was told in no uncertain terms he couldn’t hold one of his workshops in Eastbourne.

Not once, not twice but three times Exit International’s Dr Philip Nitschke booked to hold his talks and workshops at various locations in the town and then within days was told his bookings were being cancelled because of “adverse publicity” such events would generate.

Rightly or wrongly, Dr Nitschke had chosen Eastbourne because of its elderly population – many of whom had expressed an interest in his teachings.

My problem with the whole issue is we are no longer living in the dark ages.

We have gay pubs in the town, a pole dancing club, sex shops....the list goes on. Quite simply, we have freedom of speech.

I know assisted suicide is illegal. And there are always those ruthless individuals who will bump off Auntie Flo to get their hands on her cash.

But why couldn’t the meetings go ahead? They were for people over the age of 50 of sound mind.

If people don’t agree with what Dr Nitschke has to say, don’t go to the meetings. There are lots of things on the telly I don’t like, so I turn over. We all have a choice in life.

To balance things out, Dr Nitschke could have held his meeting and then the anti-euthanasia lobby could have held its very own event to argue against it.

I feel even more sorry for those who wanted to attend the meeting and workshop. This week I took a call in the office from a very indignant lady who had been looking forward to Dr Nitschke’s meeting and workshop and was furious that her choice to attend been taken away.

As I write, that lady is preparing – with her friends – to contact the doctor and host a meeting in her own home.

There are a lot of people who want to have a choice in their final years, who don’t want to see out their twilight years in nursing homes, unhappy, incompetent and, worse still, in pain.

I speak from experience. My mother was a fit, healthy woman of 63 who, until she was struck down out of the blue by a debilitating brain haemorrhage, had so much energy and a huge zest for life. The stroke left her paralysed, unable to walk, talk, stripped of her dignity and a prisoner in her own body.

There was nothing wrong with her mind, she knew exactly what was going on as she lay in her bed at All Saints Hospital. But she was a vegetable and with all the treatment and physio in the world, wasn’t going to get any better. And she didn’t want to be a burden to her family.

On her good days - and with her good hand - she would hide all her tablets under her pillow intending to take the lot when we had gone. On her bad days she would signal to me to put the pillow over her head. Had she known back then about assisted suicide, clinics in Switzerland and Dr Nitschke, my mother would have made her choice.

I thought back then, as I still do now, that we as a society wouldn’t have let a dog suffer like she did and a poor animal would have been put to sleep and out of its misery.

Eastbourne hasn’t seen or heard the last of the doctor and Exit International. And in the name of democracy, free speech and free choice I hope he succeeds in getting a venue.