Euthanasia doctor keeps his promise

Dr Nitschke and Eastbourne organiser Kathy Beech
Dr Nitschke and Eastbourne organiser Kathy Beech

CONTROVERSIAL euthanasia doctor Philip Nitschke finally held a workshop in Eastbourne – three years after he was banned from the town.

More than 100 people attended the meeting held at the Riviera Hotel on the seafront on Monday.

Many stayed on for a Safe Exit workshop afterwards in which the Australian doctor explained what end-of-life drugs are available and the pros and cons.

In the last three years venues across the town have bowed to public pressure and cancelled Exit International’s bookings.

Eastbourne Borough Council also banned Dr Nitschke from using any of its premises.

The doctor has also faced a harsh backlash from organisations such as Dying with Dignity and pro-life campaigners.

But speaking after the Eastbourne meeting, which was organised by indignant resident Kathy Beech (pictured) who found the venue, Dr Nitschke said he was delighted it had finally taken place.

He said the meeting and workshops had helped countless people to ‘learn the most peaceful and reliable ways to end their lives should their lives ever take a turn for the worse’.

Dr Nitschke told the Herald, “At last we are here. I believe that people should have the information they need to make their own choice and that is what we are all about.

“I make the case in the workshops that with the state of British law, it makes good common sense for the elderly and seriously ill to learn how to take matters into their own hands.

“People who come along to our workshops leave feeling enormous relief knowing that they are back in control.

“They leave knowing all about the best end of life drugs including how to obtain, store and possibly use them.

“It stops one worrying and makes any need to travel to Switzerland obsolete.”

During the first part of the event, the public meeting, Dr Nitschke outlined the legal position in England that to aid, abet or assist someone to commit suicide was illegal but that suicide itself is no longer illegal.

He listed drugs which are used to help people end their lives and gave some examples of people who had taken that decision.

He said, “It is for every elderly or ill adult to plan how they can peacefully and reliably end their own lives at the time of their choosing.

“If people have the information and the right information they can make their choices.”

After his visit to Eastbourne, Dr Nitschke and his team travelled to Dublin’s Trinity College ready for a debate with fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer’s, before returning to the UK for Safe Exit workshops in Edinburgh and York.

Organiser Kathy Beech, who has campaigned to bring the doctor to Eastbourne, said she was very pleased with the turnout and that the owners of the Riviera Hotel had not bowed to pressure to cancel.

“We are so grateful to the hotel for not cancelling the booking. It really was superb,” she told the Herald.