Euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke has reiterated his determination to set up “Exit clinics” where people can organise their deaths – as soon as legislation is passed in Tasmania or South Australia. Writing this week in Online Opinion, an Australian web magazine, Dr Nitschke says: 
“There will always be people for whom illness brings utter incapacity and devastation. Whether it is a long, drawn-out, degenerative disease such as MS or an acute bout of terminal cancer, none of us knows what is around the corner and the best laid plans can and do go ary.
 
“For these people, good end of life legislation is a must. It should be their human right not to suffer more than is necessary. While some may believe that the final moments of life offer a redemptive satisfaction ­ one gets closer to God ­ for the vast majority of secular Australia, dying before one’s time is nothing short of tragic. No one wants to die before their time has come. However, given that some of us will have our lives cut short, surely choosing how we die is the next best thing.
 
“This is why voluntary Exit Clinics will be essential once a law is passed. It will be essential in order to ensure that patients know what is involved. No use putting your hand up to die only to be told that you don’t fit the bill ­ at least not the one passed by your elected representatives up on the hill. 
Dr Nitschke says that he is determined to make amends for a man whom he failed to help to die. Max Bell, a resident of Broken Hill, in the state of New South Wales, drove all the way to Darwin in the Northern Territory, when euthanasia was briefly legal in 1996, to be killed. But Dr Nitschke was unable to fulfil all of the statutory requirements, and Bell returned home to die on his own. 

“His parting words struck equal amounts of terror and shame into me then, as they do today. A former boxer, professional bodyguard and pro-golfer, Max told me ‘you didn’t do your homework Boy’ and he was right.” 

For Dr Nitschke, legalising euthanasia is “the beginning of our story”. What chapters follow on from there are left for his readers to imagine. 

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.