Australia's 'Dr Death'
Plans Euthanasia Ship
In International Waters
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's "Dr Death" said Wednesday he plans to bypass national law by performing euthanasia on a ship anchored in international waters.
Philip Nitschke, who has assisted in the deaths of four people, told Australian reporters in London that he wanted to use a hospice-equipped ship to deliver "peaceful deaths."
He said he had sought legal advice on operating the vessel outside Australia's territorial waters and was in discussions with "interested parties."
"I want to see if I can operate a vessel outside the 200 milekilometre) international shipping limit and take advantage of international law to allow patients access to a peaceful death," he said.
"I believe one is bound by the conventions of the nation under which the ship is registered, so it will not be simple, but I am seriously looking at the possibilities."
If a legal loophole, and financial backing are found it would be the first ship-delivered euthanasia service in the world.
Nitschke said demand would be great as around 200 people had contacted him seeking assistance for their suicides in the past 18 months.
He was in London to display his "Death Machine" at the Science Museum.
Consisting of a computer, a case, a syringe and tubes, the machine was originally used in Darwin in 1996 by Bob Dent, the first man in the world to die under legally sanctioned euthanasia following the introduction of legislation in the Northern Territory.
Under the law, two doctors had to confirm a patient was terminally ill and suffering unbearable pain before life could be ended. A psychiatrist had to confirm the patient was not suffering from treatable clinical depression.
Three others took advantage of the the law before it was overriden in a conscience vote by Australia's upper house, the Senate, following strong condemnation by opponents including church leaders and Aborigines.
Nitschke said he had reluctantly accepted the term "Death Machine" because he had "nothing better" to call it.
The device had been sitting in his garden shed outside Darwin for two years.
He cancelled negotiations to sell it to Sydney's Powerhouse Museum claiming political pressure from Canberra had prompted the curators to tell him it would not be displayed.
"That would have been the same as burying it," he said.
The Science Museum said it had no views for or against euthanasia but recognised it was a significant issue in contemporary medicine.
"Our aim in acquiring the euthanasia machine is to stimulate thoughtful and responsible public debate about the issue," the Museum said in a statement.
Nitschke's machine will be displayed in a new wing of the museum, touted as the world's leading centre for presenting medical science and technology to the public. _____
Museum Takes Delivery Of Death Machine
By Dominic Kennedy 5-31-00
The world's first machine to kill sick people legally has arrived at the Science Museum with its Australian inventor, whose support for euthanasia earned him the nickname "Dr Death".
Philip Nitschke's euthanasia machine killed four people in the Northern Territory of Australia before the Federal Parliament in Canberra overruled the state's eight-month-old right-to-die legislation in March 1997.
The machine will go on display at the new £50 million Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum in London, which opens in July. Dr Nitschke was helping curators last night to assemble the device, which John Durant, the museum's assistant director, described as "disturbing".
The Science Museum paid £1,000 for the euthanasia machine, which had been gathering dust in the doctor's shed in Darwin after Sydney's Powerhouse Museum rejected the exhibit under pressure from outraged politicians. The Science Museum, now the permanent owner, said that the payment was only to help Dr Nitschke to replace the Toshiba laptop computer whose space bar was pressed by the agonised patients in their last act to end their lives.
The doctor moved the machine to Britain hurriedly when some politicians threatened to deem it an "item of cultural significance" to prevent it from being exported.
The machine administered a huge dose of Nembutal, the barbiturate that killed Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. Candidates for voluntary euthanasia in the Northern Territory had to be inspected by four doctors: one to confirm that they were terminally ill; a psychiatrist to ensure that they were sane; a palliative care expert; and Dr Nitschke himself.
Each patient was given a nine-day "cooling off" period to decide if they wanted to postpone their death, then Dr Nitschke would arrive.
"It was always difficult," he said. "When you knocked on that door, the patient knew you were coming there to end their life."
Dr Nitschke attached a needle to the patient's arm and placed the laptop on the bed. The computer asked the patient twice if they knew what they were doing and that if they pressed the button they would die. The third time the question was asked, the patient had to press the space bar to answer yes. Any other button would abort the suicide.
Fifteen seconds after they pressed the button, a message was sent to a switching unit, which turned on a compressor. A 14in tube containing 100 millilitres of liquid Nembutal was then forced up a thin wire into the patient's arm, putting them to sleep within 30 seconds and killing them within five minutes.


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