Co-authored with John Jalsevac

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, September 18 2013 (  – Top euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke has taken partial credit for the increase in the suicide rate among elderly men in New Zealand that was revealed in recently released statistics.

According to the new statistics, the average suicide rate was 12.10 per 100,000 across the population for the year ending June 2013, but the rate for men aged 85 years plus was 31.38 per 100,000.


While the total number of suicides among 85+ men only amounted to nine for the year, the increase has sparked concern in the country, with Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean saying that more research is needed to determine the cause.

MacLean also asserted that it can be difficult to differentiate “slow suicide” among the elderly from euthanasia. “That's the person that's starving themselves, refusing their medication, simply giving up the will to live. It merges sometimes with euthanasia and that's a very grey area,” he said.

However, Exit International, the group founded by euthanasia and assisted suicide advocate Dr Philip Nitschke, said it was not suprised by the news, stating in a press release, “Exit has also been instruments (sic) in providing elderly New Zealanders with supplies of MaxDog nitrogen.” 

“As a society we should not be alarmed by this trend,” said Nitschke, “and taking steps to prevent access to new developments in end of life strategies or end of life drugs would be counterproductive, forcing people to use undignified and often ineffective methods”.

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Nitschke also alleged that the suicide rate among the elderly might even be higher, pointing out that nitrogen can be difficult to detect, making a death look natural. 

Professor Emeritus David Richmond, spokesperson for Euthanasia Free New Zealand, called Exit International’s provision of information and products to commit suicide an “un-neighbourly contribution to the suicide rate.”

He also expressed concern that in order for any such deaths to look natural, someone would have to assist in the suicide.

“Under such circumstances, no-one could be certain whether the unfortunate event was a genuine suicide or whether it involved a relative killing an elderly person for personal gain.  Given the high levels of elder abuse in New Zealand, such concerns are not fanciful,” he said. 

An End of Life Choice Bill is currently in the ballot box in the country.  If it were to be drawn and then passed, anyone over the age of 18 could obtain permission to end their lives due to “unbearable suffering”.

Richmond said that he fears that if the legislation were to be passed “the State would surely be seen to be favouring Dr. Nitschke’s triumphalistic attitude towards suicide rates to the neglect of the opinion of a responsible majority of its citizens who, like Judge MacLean, are deeply concerned about them.”

Professor Emeritus David Richmond will be speaking at the Rise Up Together in the Service of Life Conference, which will be held 27th to 29th September 2013 at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, Auckland. Hosted by Family Life International NZ.