X-Message-Number: 6075
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 1996 07:22:13 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Australia law

The LA Times carried the following story (04/12/96)

Terminally Ill Australians Head for "Death Capital"

SYDNEY, Australia (Reuter) - Terminally ill Australians have begun
travelling thousands of miles to an outback territory to end their lives
under the world's first law that permits assisted suicide, a euthanasia
group said Thursday.

Up to 10 people, including some who have already arrived in the Northern
Territory, are waiting for its controversial new euthanasia legislation to
come into force in July, the territory's Voluntary Euthanasia Network told

In remarks that right-to-life campaigners say vindicates warnings of the
Northern Territory becoming Australia's "death capital," a network spokesman
said three people had already died in the province' s main city waiting for
the law to take effect.

"Right now there's one person here who's actually here and waiting,"
spokesman and prominent euthanasia advocate Dr. Philip Nitschke said by
telephone from the city of Darwin, about 1,800 miles northwest of Sydney.
The network knows of at least six others intending to travel to Darwin from
states where assisted suicide is outlawed, he said, adding they were mostly
elderly people with cancer.

"There are probably more like 10 in various stages of urgency, " Nitschke
said, adding that about 20 of the Northern Territory's 700 doctors were
prepared to carry out euthanasia.

The Northern Territory's new law, believed to be the first enacted to allow
doctors to give lethal injections to patients, was passed in February. The
provincial government announced Wednesday that it would come into force July 1.

An opinion poll last year showed that more than 70 percent of Australians
backed legal euthanasia, but the Northern Territory's legislation has
stirred emotional debate, pitting churches and many doctors against
supporters of euthanasia.  The new law has also led politicians elsewhere in
Australia to draft similar legislation, but Darwin officials fear some
people will travel to the outback to end their lives rather than wait for
euthanasia to be legalized in their home states.

Official guidelines for access to assisted suicide in the Northern Territory
have yet to be finalized but will be strict, including a requirement for a
psychiatrist and two other doctors to vouch for the terminally ill person's
mental health, said a spokeswoman for the Northern Territory's health minister.

"We are really concerned that people inter-state and overseas realize they
have got to wait and see what the rules are before they leave their homes
and find they are in limbo," the spokeswoman told Reuters by phone from
Darwin.  "It would be really sad to make this trek without waiting for that
(the guidelines to be issued)," he said.

In the United States, a law created by a referendum in Oregon, the Death
With Dignity Act, was struck down by a federal judge.  In the Netherlands,
euthanasia is technically illegal but there are guidelines under which
charges will not be pursued.  Australia's Right to Life Association, which
had joined churches and the main doctors' lobby to oppose the new law, has
likened the movement of terminally ill people to the Northern Territory as a
form of "one way tourism."

"You will see a whole congregation of people arriving up there, " said Kath
Harrigan, a spokeswoman for Right to Life. "It will be wholesale killing of

The Aids Council of New South Wales state said Thursday it strongly backed
legal euthanasia for people with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome
(AIDS).  Two AIDS sufferers attempted suicide in Sydney every month, it
said.  Asked if AIDS sufferers would travel to Darwin to end their lives,
council policy officer Geoffrey Bloom told Reuters: "It would not be
surprising if there were some people who did that."

 <David Brandt-Erichsen>

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