Nitschke in the News - again

  On the 23 of January, the 

rdAdelaide Advertiser and the Melbourne Herald Sun ran separate pieces concerning the events surrounding the death in South Australia of a 61 year old woman suffering from motor neurone disease.

Recent news items featuring Dr. Philip Nitschke deserve some scrutiny (in addition to the scrutiny of medical authorities — see below).

On the 23rd of January, the Adelaide Advertiser and the Melbourne Herald Sun ran separate pieces concerning the events surrounding the death in South Australia of a 61 year old woman suffering from motor neurone disease.

Readers will recall news in September last year that Nitschke intended to import Nembutal (see blog).  It was said that he had a number of patients in mind including one in South Australia.  The January headlines appear to concern this same person.

This latest death appears to have spurred medical authorities to act.  Under the Therapeutic Goods Administration body's procedures Nitschke was advised in September of 'the need for him to ensure his prescribing is in accordance with good medical practice'.  The TGA added: 'There is a clear process for doctors to follow in order to import and prescribe unapproved drugs and if Dr Nitschke does not follow appropriate clinical practice, he could face a range of serious sanctions from professional bodies.'

The woman concerned left a note to the effect that Nitschke was not involved in her death; yet the news reports gave conflicting reports on whether or not sodium pentobarbital was used to end her life.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the TGA are reported to be investigating.

Time will tell.

A week earlier and the Western Australian press was running a story about what appears to be the assisted suicide of an elderly woman where her partner also attempted to take his own life but failed.

This is a tragic case and one that should evoke sympathy and sadness.  In an interview I gave for Channel 7 news that afternoon I said as much — but that was not my main point.

It seems that virtually every time such a tragedy occurs up pops Nitschke with the same lines arguing that, somehow, this would not have happened if euthanasia & assisted suicide were legal.  It might be stating the obvious, but I can't see how this situation would not be such a tragedy — regardless of the legality.

I told the news reporter that I was incensed that, in the face of such human tragedy, Nitschke could display what appeared to me to be a callous disregard for the circumstances, and using the opportunity, instead, to push his barrow.

To be fair, the media quite likely have Nitschke's mobile number on speed dial and went straight to him for comment.  In my view, they need to have a good hard look at themselves for their part in promoting that agenda.  But you can say 'No', Dr Nitschke.

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