While the media attention today was focussing on Exit International and the suspension of Philip Nitschke's medical licence, the South Australian Health Minister launched his own attack in answering a question during question time in the South Australian Parliament today.
QUESTION: Minister, what is the South Australian Government's response to last night's decision by the Australian Medical Board, to suspend Phillip Nitschke from Medical Practise?
Health Minister, The Hon Jack Snelling MP: I thank the member for this question.
Last night, the Australian Medical Board suspended Philip Nitschke from practising medicine in Australia, stating that he "presents a serious risk to public health and safety". This follows from his conduct in providing advice to Perth man, Mr Nigel Brayley, who then took his own life.
Euthanasia, Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide are illegal in South Australia, and while they have debated by previous Parliaments in this place, as far as I am aware, Philip Nitschke's resolve to provide support to a healthy man, with no terminal illness, in ending his life, goes beyond the scope of any piece of legislation that any house in any parliament in Australia, has ever considered.
Mr Speaker, let me make it clear to the House, any medical practitioner who feels that suicide is an option for depressed and mentally ill people, is not fit to practice medicine in South Australia.
I understand that Philip Nitschke has made remarks this morning suggesting that he and Mr Brayley did not have a doctor/patient relationship. This completely misses the point.
His inaction, in not referring Mr Brayley to a psychologist or psychiatrist for counselling around his wishes to end his life, is deplorable.
As Jeff Kennett, Chairman of Beyond Blue, described it, it is "offensive to all standards of common decency".
A.M.A. President, Brian Owler has said of Philip Nitschke's negligence:
"To suggest a patient with suicidal ideation has a rational or cogent reason for their wish to suicide and that means there is no obligation to help them is completely false and it is immoral."
Mr Speaker, in South Australia, Government is investing in suicide prevention and I know we have bi-partisan support on this issue. What has happened in this instance goes against everything we stand for, in urging people to seek help when experiencing depression or mental illness.
Philip Nitschke operates a Voluntary Euthanasia advice clinic in in South Australia. I understand that, to date, this clinic has operated within the law but I will be seeking advice from SA Health and South Australian Police on how his suspension may affect the services provided at this clinic.
I am also aware that his organisation has a website which actively promotes End of Life options, and that this website was accessed by a 25 year old Victorian man, who then used the information to commit suicide.
I will be looking closely at the Australian Medical Board findings, with the aim to find ways that tighten the laws around access to websites such as these, in Australia, to prevent the senseless death that Philip Nitschke has been suspended for advocating.