Marlowe's Shade

Friday, July 29, 2005

Nitschke Basks in the Limelime of Controversial Death

From The Age

Voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke and Melbourne activist Dr Rodney Syme yesterday admitted advising terminally ill man Steve Guest on how to end his life.

The two euthanasia activists yesterday challenged the grey areas of the law relating to doctors advising patients on suicide while the State Coroner yesterday confirmed Mr Guest's death was under investigation.

Mr Guest died on Wednesday morning at his Point Lonsdale home after a 10-month battle with cancer of the oesophagus.

Both doctors admitted yesterday they had visited Mr Guest in the final days of his life and had discussed options of how he could end his life.

"He asked a number of questions about ways, if you like," Dr Nitschke said yesterday. "He asked about drugs, he asked about all sorts of questions and had done in previous times while he had been a member of Exit (the right-to-die organisation founded by Dr Nitschke)," he said.

Dr Nitschke said the coronial inquiry into Mr Guest's death was "interesting" as he believed the death certificate signed off by a local GP stated bronchial pneumonia as the cause of death.

Neither Dr Nitschke nor Dr Syme was with Mr Guest when the former media adviser died on Wednesday.

Mr Guest received publicity after advocating voluntary euthanasia in emotional pleas on Melbourne radio in the weeks leading up to his death.

Under the Crimes Act, it is illegal to "aid or abet any person in the commission of suicide" but euthanasia campaigners believe it is a grey area under the law whether doctors giving advice to patients constitutes aiding or abetting.

"I don't fear prosecution at all," said Dr Syme, who as president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Victoria welcomed renewed debate on the law.

"You don't prosecute doctors for good medical practice, surely," he said.

"I firmly believe - and Steve Guest illustrates it in spades - that if you give people advice and put them in control, the quality of their life is enhanced enormously."

Mr Guest, 58, had two daughters and was separated from his wife.

Meanwhile, Dr Nitschke said last night he was considering taking up an invitation from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand to move his right-to-die organisation across the Tasman to thwart new federal legislation that comes into effect next January
papijoe 6:48 AM