‘Dr Death’ workshop killed off twice

Philip Nitschke
Philip Nitschke
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A CONTROVERSIAL doctor planning to hold a suicide workshop in Eastbourne says he has been forced to cancel the event.

Dr Philip Nitschke, pictured, the leader of pro-euthanasia group Exit International and dubbed Dr Death, was due to give a talk and workshop in the town on Monday aimed at showing elderly and ill people how to kill themselves.

But first Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club cancelled the booking and the alternative venue the Under Ground Theatre then also backed out.

In addition Dr Nitschke was briefly detained at Heathrow Airport by officials when he landed as he was carrying his infamous Deliverance Machine - a laptop computer used to administer a lethal dose of drugs or gases.

After his release Dr Nitschke said he still intended to visit Eastbourne and appealed for any venue which could offer a meeting room for about 50 people.

He said the public meeting would be free and open to all but the workshops restricted to senior citizens of sound mind and those who are seriously ill.

But Sussex Police this week warned the euthanasia doctor could be acting illegally by advising people on ending their lives.

A spokeswoman for the force said, “In relation to the legality of holding a meeting to discuss euthanasia, it is difficult to comment as we cannot be certain in advance what will be discussed on the day.

“However, the Suicide Act 1961 states that a person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable to prosecution.”

Dr Nitschke shot to fame in when assisted suicide was still legal in Australia.

He has tried for three years to come to Eastbourne to run the workshop and said he chose the town ‘because of its retirement population who have a particular interest in the issue’.

In October 2008 the Langham Hotel on Eastbourne seafront cancelled a booking for a talk and workshop and Eastbourne Borough Council has also refused to let the doctor use any of its venues.

In December last year Exit International booked the Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club to host the February meeting.

But when the media spotlight fell on the club, its management board said the booking had been taken by a new member of staff who did not appreciate the significance and sensitivities of the event, and that it would cause bad publicity, and cancelled the booking.

Dr Nitschke said he was disappointed. “It is nothing short of ridiculous to suggest that a meeting such as ours would bring bad publicity,” he said.

“As an ocean sailor myself I would suggest quite the contrary. I would imagine the public and the members of the club would be pleased that the meeting was being held in such an impartial and independent setting.

“Our meetings are entirely lawful and, indeed, they are a valuable contribution to public debate on a prickly topic.

“This censorship of debate leaves us all the poorer on a philosophical and practical level.

“Eastbourne seems quite unique as one of the few towns in the western world where Exit International has experienced multiple venue cancellations.

“Even in Dublin we are able to hold meetings and encourage public debate about assisted suicide.

“Yet when we plan to hold a meeting in Eastbourne the venue rescinds.

“This is not particularly damaging for myself or Exit per se, but it does deny the good folk of this part of the world the opportunity to hear and express their views.

“And that is not what a modern democracy is about.”