Bioethics News

Australia’s ‘Dr Death’ forced to stop promoting suicide

The world’s foremost promoter of assisted suicide and euthanasia, Australia’s Dr Philip Nitschke, has agreed to cease his advocacy in exchange for retaining his medical registration.

Dr Nitschke has been in the crosshairs of Australia’s medical regulators for years. After a lengthy battle in the courts prompted by the suicides of a number of people whom he had advised or influenced, from the aged to the young, he has run up a white flag. In a deal struck with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA), he accepted 25 conditions in exchange for being allowed to continue as a medical practitioner.

The MBA said that these measures were necessary “to protect the public”. The agreement puts “an end to his involvement in providing any advice or information to any patient or member of the public about how to commit suicide. This includes workshops, the Peaceful Pill Handbook, videos or on-line fora”.

The conditions are onerous. Basically Dr Nitschke must not advise anyone or promote assisted suicide or euthanasia in any form; he may only practice in the Northern Territory; and his work as a doctor must be supervised. For the next two years Dr Nitschke is not supposed to take a patient’s blood pressure without another doctor standing by.

An immediate consequence of the MBA’s decision is that Dr Nitschke has been forced to resign as director of Exit International, the organisation he founded to promote methods of committing suicide.

But his work will continue. His wife, sociologist Fiona Stewart, is taking over as the new director of Exit International.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.