Towards the end of September, British newspaper The Daily Mail reported the shocking news that controversial group Exit International, founded by infamous Dr Philip Nitschke (dubbed "Dr. Death"), had established a permanent presence in Britain. Exit International is radically pro-euthanasia, and offers information and equipment to help people kill themselves. It also mentioned that a London chapter had been started, with the inaugural meeting to be held on 4th October this year.
According to the organization’s newsletter, the office will function on a part-time basis, consisting of a single phone number people can call. Furthermore, an online search suggests that a London-based BM Box (British Monomarks PO Box) is being used, rather than a large corporate central London office, which might lead one to question the level of support and interest being claimed for this radical group and its agenda.
The group is known for its workshops, reserved for those over 50 years old, and for people who are seriously ill. Topics of these workshops include barbiturates, prescription and non-prescription drugs, gases with seemingly innocuous names like “Max Dog Nitrogen” and “Party Time Helium,” and poisons, including cyanide and detergents.
According to the website, Exit International believes that it is a “fundamental right of every adult of sound mind to be able to end their [sic] life,” including elderly people who are “tired of life.”
In 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald reported findings from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, which found that 51 people in Australia had died from an overdose of Nembutal in the past 10 years: six were in their 20s, eight in their 30s, and five in their 40s. Exit International is well known for recommending the lethal drug, and Nitschke responded to the by saying, “There will be some casualties – but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.”
Leading British-based anti-euthanasia group, Care Not Killing (CNK), has reacted to the news, stating, “Nitschke is an extremist and self-publicist whose presence in the UK puts the lives of vulnerable elderly, depressed, and disabled people at grave risk.” On his blog, Dr. Peter Saunders of CNK remarked, “Quite why the Home Secretary and Metropolitan Police allow him into the UK to conduct seminars and continue his activities remains a mystery, but Britain deserves a full explanation.”
The day after The Daily Mail broke the story, The Sydney Morning Herald eported that Nitschke is under investigation by police all over Australia, for his possible role in nearly 20 deaths in the past three years—all of them apparently suicides, all involving methods championed by Nitschke, including Nembutal. He is also under investigation by several medical boards.
Britain is facing renewed attempts to legalise euthanasia a recent bill introduced by Lord Falconer. In his comments, Dr. Saunders added, “With the growing elderly population, failure of the care system, and worsening economic situation, a growing number of frail, disabled, ill, and depressed people in Britain will be feeling under even greater pressure to end their lives, either for fear that they will not cope, or so as to be less of a burden to relatives.
“They deserve better protection from suicide predators like Nitschke than they are currently getting.”
Daniel Blackmanis a writer living in London, England.