Controversial founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, Dr Philip Nitschke will hold a free public meeting on NSW’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying Act at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday.
Nitschke says the purpose of the 2023 meetings is to explain how elderly people can ensure they have end-of-life options, when they fall through the cracks of NSW’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying law.
‘Exit is approached every week by people who tell us that they are surprised and frustrated when they find out that they will need to be terminally ill with less than six months to live, to get a good death under the new law’, he said.
A dignified choice
‘Most people think that Australia’s various VAD laws will provide dignified choice for the elderly at the end of life, but this is not the case’.
Nitschke says you need to be almost dead to use the new law. ‘This means that most older people are excluded.’
Nitschke says in the past he has pleaded with both the WA Premier and the Queensland Law Reform Commission to look to the Swiss model instead of blindly following the restrictive medical model of Victoria, where more people are excluded than helped by their VAD law.
‘Instead, NSW has passed the same tired law, which leaves the vast majority of the elderly in feeling discriminated against and let down. We can and should do better.’
Nitschke says that in Switzerland where assisted suicide is very carefully regulated, there are only two safeguards. Neither safeguard requires a person to be terminally ill which is ‘much more equitable’.
Swiss laws states that assisting someone to die is legal as long as: the person is of sound mind – they have mental capacity and they do the action that brings about their death themselves.
‘This the fairest and safest approach that a country can take to regulating assisted dying, by far.’
In 1996, Dr Philip Nitschke became the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, lethal, voluntary injection under Australia’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in the Northern Territory.
Law overturned by conscience vote
Four of his patients used this law before it was overturned by a conscience vote in the Federal Parliament of Australia.
Since 2015 Dr Nitschke has lived in the Netherlands.
Of the Dutch situation he says that after 20 years of voluntary euthanasia legislation, the debate has shifted from a focus on terminally ill people to whether all over-75s should be issued lethal drugs as their fundamental human right.
This, says Nitschke, is the ‘best common sense’ approach to regulating the community’s right – and especially the elderly’s right – to a good death.
The Exit Public Meeting will be held at 11.30am, Saturday 4 February at the Lismore Workers Sport Club, Goonellabah. The public meeting is free and open to all. The meeting will be followed by a closed workshop for Exit Members.