by Paul Russell:
Never far from the news it seems the ABC Alice Springs reports today that the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Medical Association has expelled Philip Nitschke from its ranks.
This news comes immediately after the death of Nitschke's legal council last week. Peter Nugent QC was, according to reports, suffering from stage four cancer but was not understood to be near death. Nitschke told Fairfax Media that Nugent "had options in place" for ending his own life. He also said that Nugent's death was 'perplexing' and 'a great loss'.
Nugent had been acting pro bono for Nitschke in the matter of the suspension of Nitschke's medical licence in July last year after questions were raisied about whether or not he (Nitschke) should have referred a suicidal Perth man for counselling when he had approached Nitschke via email and in person.
The suspension was heard in the Northern Territory Health Professional Review Tribunal in November last year. The suspension, upheld at that juncture, continues pending the hearing of a dozen complaints to the Australian Health Professionals Regulation Agency about the activities of Exit and Philip Nitschke (including one complaint from this writer).
Nitschke has lodged an appeal to the original suspension and that hearing is listed for the Supreme Court in Darwin in early April.
Responding to this latest move by the AMA to expel Nitschke as a member, head of the NT Branch of the AMA, Dr Robert Parker told the ABC that the decision related to both the Nigel Brayley case (mentioned above) and the AMA's own code of ethics.
"It wasn't just the AHPRA issues, it was also the AMA issues," he said.
"The AMA expects very high standards from its members and my understanding is that the council, in reviewing Dr Nitschke felt that he hadn't...actually achieved those very high standards."
Dr Parker added that advocacy of 'rational suicide' does not comply with the AMA's code of ethics.
Nitschke tweeted: "The AMA "high standards" means any Supreme Court decision is irrelevant - more medical arrogance on euthanasia issue".
He also told the ABC that "The fact that the NT AMA comes along now and says not even going to wait for the court to have a look at it...is just evidence of how small minded they are."
This has been a long time coming for those who have watched with concern the growth and development of the Exit organisation and its seemingly ever increasing reach in suicide advocacy.
The saga will continue.
Paul Russell is director of HOPE: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide based in Australia.