What we do
Campaigns & Events
Abortion in N. Ireland
"I need help..."
Make a Donation
Find us on Facebook
18 / 02 / 2011 - `Dr Death` visit to Belfast cancelled
See also : Dublin suicide ‘workshop’ a bust with twice as many protesters as attendees
Dr Philip Nitschke, dubbed "Doctor Death" by his opponents, was due to arrive in Belfast on Saturday for a demonstration at the Community Arts Forum on Church Street.
But the event has since been cancelled.
Heather Floyd from the Community Arts Forum said they decided to pull out after "careful consideration" regarding the nature of the event.
Dr Nitschke was due to carry out a demonstration on his new "Deliverance" Voluntary Euthanasia Machine.
But Ms Floyd said she was not aware of his plans "at the time of booking".
"The first we heard about the death machine was through a press release that was sent to us. After careful consideration we decided our venue was not suitable for such a high profile public event.
"We also felt it was not suitable for something of this nature," she said.
A spokesman for Dr Nitschke said: "Obviously we are disappointed. The venue did not give us a reason why it pulled out.
"Dr Nitshke was going to go through the process of how the machine works. The machine does not require anyone to use it.
"He was not looking for a volunteer to lose their life."
Dr Nitschke carried out a demonstration of his "Deliverance" machine in Dublin on Wednesday.
The original version was used by four people during Australia's short-lived Rights of the Terminally Act in 1996 and 1997.
Since that time, it has been on permanent display at the British Science Museum in London and has attracted a number of complaints.
Dr Nitschke said the machine provides "a peaceful death" for the seriously ill or elderly, by either the "administration of intravenous or oral drugs, or through the use of lethal gas".
Earlier, it emerged the Justice Minister David Ford had contacted the PSNI regarding Dr Nitschke's visit to Northern Ireland.
However, Ms Floyd said she has had no contact with the Department of Justice or the police and the decision to cancel the event was made solely by the Community Arts Forum.
“Dr. Death” Philip Nitschke’s controversial visit to Ireland proved to be anti-climactic after only a handful of people turned out for his Dublin suicide workshop, over half of whom were journalists. The Australian Dr. Nitschke, one of the world’s most enthusiastic proponents of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, had attempted to vet attendees of the lecture, but had so few takers that he eventually decided to open the venue to anyone.
Even so, said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Dublin-based Life Institute, only 20 people attended, 12 of whom were with the press. During the lecture, over 50 people demonstrated outside, carrying signs reading “Suicide ‘workshop’ illegal and sick,” and “Lock up your grannies, Dr. Death is here.”
Uí Bhriain told LSN that the numbers are a clear indication that Dr. Nitschke’s suicide workshop is not welcome in Ireland. Prior to the event she had written to Dublin’s Garda (police) Commissioner saying that the workshop contravened Ireland’s criminal code prohibition against counseling suicide, and asking that it be shut down.
Typically, Nitschke’s suicide workshops include information on how to commit suicide, for which he recommends the drug Nembutal. He has admitted that his organization, Exit International, has given information on how to obtain the drug from Mexico even to young people who have stated their intention to commit suicide. Nitschke is the inventor of the “exit bag,” a plastic bag that he says can be fitted over a person’s head to suffocate them after taking the drugs.
In her letter to the Gardai, Uí Bhriain said, “Clearly Dr Nitschke is counselling the suicide of others and his actions are in breach of the Act. This law was written to protect vulnerable people and, should the Gardai not enforce the law, this workshop will most likely result in the death of an Irish citizen at some stage in the future.”
Uí Bhriain said she was disappointed by the lack of response from the Garda Commissioner, saying it was a “disgrace.” “The Commissioner got hundreds of calls and all his office would say was ‘why are you calling us?’” she told LSN.
“Their official line was that they are monitoring things.”
The demonstration, which was supported by the Life Institute, was organized by Maria Mhic Meanmain whose elderly parents both died following debilitating illnesses. Mhic Meanmain said that Nitschke was “normalizing suicide, and bringing about a situation where elderly and sick people would feel they had a duty to die.”
“It makes me feel incredibly sad that people like Philip Nitschke are offering suicide as a solution to anything,” she said. “I lost both my parents to serious, debilitating illnesses. I know that palliative care, family support and love are what help at the end of life - not making elderly and sick people feel as if they are a burden.”
Mhic Meanmain added that if Nitschke succeeded in normalizing suicide, it would not be long before what was being now sold as a choice became an obligation: “This will lead to situations where elderly and terminally ill people are told that they are wasting resources and should stop being a burden to society.”
Niamh Uí Bhriain told LSN that Nitschke would be “responsible for the deaths of vulnerable people - both young and old - who were listening to his promotion of suicide.”
“We’re losing more than 600 people a year due to suicide, and every case is a tragedy which leaves families devastated,” she said. “Nitschke’s reckless and dangerous promotion of suicide will lead directly to the death of people in this country.”