Offices of Assisted Suicide Organization
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Police raided the Melbourne offices of the
assisted-suicide advocacy organization Exit International last
Thursday, seizing documents related to the alleged assisted suicide of
Exit International member Frank Ward. In response to this and to
raid of another Exit International member's home, Exit International
has told its 4,000 members to be wary not to attract police activity.
"We haven't had any incidents like this for a long time," said Dr.
Philip Nitschke, head of Exit International.
The raid highlights the dubious legal status of Exit International's
activities. Because assisting or even encouraging suicide is illegal in
Australia, Exit International bills its workshops, books, suicide
equipment, and all its activities as merely providing people with
knowledge and equipment to allow them to do what they want, not as
actually assisting them in the act of suicide. According to Nitschke,
such was the extent of Exit International's contact with Ward.
"[Police] were suggesting we were involved in his death but we were
not," Nitschke told Television New Zealand. "We would never be actively
involved in something like that, helping him end his life, which would
be committing a crime."
According to Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia
Prevention Coalition, such protestations of innocence are dubious.
"I think that this raid is long-overdue," he told LifeSiteNews.com
(LSN). "Nitschke has been skirting the law for many years."
Frank Ward killed himself last June by inhaling helium, which causes
asphyxia. This method of suicide is among those promoted by Dr.
Nitschke. Schadenberg described to LSN how at a Right-to-Die Conference
he saw Nitschke demonstrate "how a device that he claimed to have
invented would regulate the flow of gas to ensure that ... the act
would result in their death."
"Nitschke was not concerned that he was aiding suicide by knowingly
selling a device to ensure the success of a suicide."
A widespread dissemination of information on how to kill oneself,
however, is precisely what Nitschke desires. In an interview
with National Review he said that someone needs to provide the
knowledge of how to kill oneself "to anyone who wants it, including the
depressed, the elderly bereaved, [and] the troubled teen."
"If we are to remain consistent and we believe that the individual has
the right to dispose of their life, we should not erect artificial
barriers in the way of sub-groups who don't meet our criteria," he said.
The second raid on Thursday was directly related to this desire of
Nitschke. Police came to the home of an elderly Exit
member in Sydney to search for the euthanasia drug Nembutal and
information concerning its acquisition. They left with a small quantity
of the drug and the "Peaceful Pill Handbook," a book by Nitschke and a
co-author on how to kill oneself that was banned by the Australian
Nembutal is used by veterinarians to euthanize animals, and is tightly
controlled in most places around the world. Nitschke's
however, has striven to make it available to as many people as possible.
"Last year Nitschke was encouraging people to order Nembutal by mail
order from a source that he had discovered," Schadenberg said. "Once
again, he wasn't concerned that people with chronic depression would
access this information to kill themselves." Members of Exit
International also travel to Mexico to buy the drug, where it is easily
Nitschke explained that because of the raids Exit Internatonal had sent
an alert to its 4,000 members “warning them about the fact that ...
people should be very careful if they've gone to great lengths to get
these drugs so that they don't find themselves subject of any form of
Schadenberg, however, thinks it high time that such activity began in
"It is simply about time that his offices were investigated, especially
now that he has set up an office in Bellingham, Washington state, where
he intends to launch his group into the United States,” he said.
“He intends to grow his group Exit International and he is doing this
through his recent series of speaking engagements throughout the United
States, Britain and Canada."
November 16, 2009
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