Euthanasia doctor demonstrates lethal injection machine
Irish Examiner, 18 February 2011 by Evelyn Ring
EUTHANASIA advocate Dr Philip Nitschke demonstrated his latest ‘deliverance machine’ — a device which will be able to deliver a lethal injection in the blink of an eye.
Dr Nitschke invented the original machine that was used by four terminally ill people in the 1990s when euthanasia was briefly legalised in Australia’s Northern Territory.
His group, Exit International, provides information on assisted suicide and campaigns for the right of people to make informed decisions about when and how they will die.
About 30 people attended his free public talk on euthanasia at social centre Seomra Spraoi in Dublin yesterday, which was followed by a workshop for those over 50 of sound mind, and the seriously ill.
The Australian medic said his latest ‘deliverance machine’ was more sophisticated and designed to take account of a “changing world and changing legislation”.
“This one acts on the touch of a button but there are some that are going to be modified so they can be activated by the blink of an eye or by the voice,” he said. The machine asks the patient just three questions and administers a lethal injection after 15 seconds if the correct answers are made.
Dr Nitschke said it was important that the machine could respond in various ways because people who were significantly disabled often asked for the option of a peaceful death.
He said the machine could deliver drugs orally and had the ability to deliver a lethal dose of carbon monoxide gas.
At the end of the demonstration, retired nurse Colette Connell said that people needed to learn how to live, not to die and that people could die with dignity in hospice care.
“Help people live, not die,” she urged before leaving the meeting and joining a protest by about 25 people outside the venue.
Protester Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute, said Dr Nitschke and his supporters would be responsible for the deaths of vulnerable people who were listening to his promotion of suicide.
“For most people, what he is advocating is absolutely unethical and reckless,” she said.
Dr Nitschke, 63, said he was an atheist for a long time and did not regard the promotion of euthanasia as depressing or unpleasant.
“It is an important social challenge and there is rarely a day that goes by without someone telling me I am doing a good job,” he said.
“When people know they can have a peaceful death at the time of their choosing they can relax and get on with their lives,” he said.
“Sometimes there are non-medical reasons that we disagree with but I have long since given up imposing my idea about what a life worth living should be onto other people.”
He believed that keeping people alive on the planet by “keeping them in the dark,” which was really what the Irish law was trying to achieve, was not healthy.
Among those attending the workshop was Tom Curran, from Dublin, but now living in Wicklow with his partner, who has advanced multiple sclerosis.
Mr Curran, 63, his partner’s full-time carer for 11 years, is coordinator of Irish branch of Exit International that has about 60 members.
“I joined for personal and practical reasons. Euthanasia has been a topic of conversation in my home over the past 10 years because of my partner’s illness,” he said.