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Right to die

Saturday, 16th November, 2013

Voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke says Broken Hill residents could benefit from proposed South Australian legislation.   PICTURE: AAP Voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke says Broken Hill residents could benefit from proposed South Australian legislation. PICTURE: AAP

By By Andrew Robertson

Terminally ill locals who are suffering intolerable pain and want to end their life may be able to get their wish if proposed legislation is passed in South Australia.

SA Independent Bob Such’s Ending Life with Dignity bill is the latest attempt to introduce voluntary euthanasia laws into an Australian state or territory.

The legislation would allow a limited number of people the right to request medical assistance to hasten death, provided they are a competent adult in the final phase of a terminal illness and suffering unbearable pain.

Voluntary euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke said if the legislation was passed there would be nothing stopping people from interstate using it.

He said it would be particularly useful to people in Broken Hill, given the city’s geographical proximity to SA.

“I think there would be very little difficulty there,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of getting the two doctors to basically agree and, as far I can see, the way the law is currently structured there’s no reason why the final step of the person ending their life shouldn’t be done back in Broken Hill.

“So it’s hard to see how they would ultimately restrict it and there’d be a very compelling case for Broken Hill.”

Mr Such’s electoral office confirmed the legislation was not restricted to SA residents.

But a spokesman said that, in practice, there was little likelihood of someone who was in intolerable pain being able to travel.

“It’s unlikely that travelling will be a possibility.”

The chances of the bill passing into law anytime soon also appear to be slim to none, after a scheduled debate and vote in parliament on Thursday did not eventuate.

It was rescheduled for November 28 which is the final sitting day before parliament rises.

Dr Nitschke was famously involved in terminally-ill Broken Hill taxi driver Max Bell’s attempt to end his life in 1996 using a short-lived Northern Territory law.

The director of Exit Australia said since that law was overturned there had been around 15 attempts to get similar voluntary euthanasia laws through in other states, including five in SA.

“It is important to get something done and Such is to be applauded for putting it forward with all the limitation it has.

“There has been three failed attempts this year to pass similar laws in NSW, all of which have failed.”

The voluntary euthanasia debate comes as Dr Nitschke is expected to open Australia’s first euthanasia clinic in Adelaide this week.

The clinic will provide advice and information to people face-to-face and via virtual consultations, as well as test and give advice about euthanasia drugs people have purchased.

Dr Nitschke said the clinic was in response to a growing number of people enquiring about their rights and options.

“We’ve set it up so that people can come here and talk and have a consultation, but we’ve also got in place a video conferencing set up so I can talk to people remotely using video link, if that’s more appropriate.

“We get one or two calls a day from people who really want to talk about their particular situation and not all of them ... are coming from Adelaide.

They’re coming from all over the place.”

He said many of them were frustrated that there were no laws to help them.

“And that ultimately is what’s driving a lot of people our way because people are saying ‘look, I really haven’t got the time to wait around’.

“So ... elderly people are often saying ‘we’d like the law to come in but in the meantime we’ve got to look for something else’ and that’s where most of our enquiries are coming from.”

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