By Hilary White

BRISBANE, April 14, 2008 ( – Australia’s foremost euthanasia advocate, “Dr. Death” Philip Nitschke announced that his suicide advocacy organisation has received a $5 million bequest from the late mayor of Brisbane. The Australian newspaper confirmed that former mayor Clem Jones, who died in December 2007 aged 89, left the money to Nitschke to help with the latter’s euthanasia advocacy and information sessions.

Jones, the longest serving Lord Mayor of the city of Brisbane, represented the Australian Labour Party from 1961 to 1975.

Nitschke is the founder and director of the militant suicide organisation Exit International. He told media the donation was “by far the biggest” to his cause of which he had heard.

“We are heartened by the donation,” Dr. Nitschke said. “Not only the large amount of money, but because it was (given) by someone who commanded a great deal of respect…it will give this issue a degree of legitimacy.”

Jones wrote that the reason for the donation was the painful battle his wife Sylvia underwent against illness before she died in 1999. “I saw Sylvia suffer the most dreadful agony from disease and illness that destroyed her physically and mentally and caused her to suffer, day after day, not only the pain but also the indignity of being something that could not truly be described as a human being,” Jones wrote in his will.

“I do not, of course, criticise the splendid endeavours that the medical fraternity make to preserve the quality of human life, but when that quality falls to a level where life is one of pain and suffering – or when one’s mind can no longer function – those self-same medical practitioners should have the right and the responsibility of releasing persons from that torture, misery and indignity.”

The pain and suffering of those dying from terminal illnesses is the standard justification for legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia. Nitschke, however, has not limited his advocacy for euthanasia to those who are suffering with incurable diseases and pro-life advocates warn that the rhetoric is a ruse to smooth the path to legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia for anyone for any or no reason.

In a 2001 interview on National Review Online, Nitschke told NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez who he thought ought to qualify for access to his “suicide pill”: “[A]ll people qualify, not just those with the training, knowledge, or resources to find out how to ‘give away’ their life…If we are to remain consistent and we believe that the individual has the right to dispose of their life, we should not erect artificial barriers in the way of subgroups that don’t meet our criteria.”

“This would mean,” Nitschke continued, “that the so-called peaceful pill should be available in the supermarkets so that those old enough to understand death could obtain death peacefully at the time of their choosing.”

Wesley Smith, a lawyer and writer on bioethical issues, said that the rhetoric of relieving suffering masks a dark and dehumanizing motive.

“Euthanasia is not the answer,” Smith wrote, “it is not the solution, it is not the overcoming of disease and disability. Rather, it is total surrender to them, it is the abandonment of the most vulnerable among us to killing over caring, it is to claim that some human beings have lives not worth living or protecting.”

“A lot of people fit into the categories the late Mayor would consign to a killable caste. And his apparent indifference to the utter subversive philosophy of Nitschke and the man’s disgraceful past conduct is shameful,” Smith continued.

Nitschke, a medical doctor, travels Australia and New Zealand giving instruction in how to commit suicide and he manufactures and distributes plastic suicide bags called, “Exit Bags”. Nitschke is a secular humanist and in 1998 was named Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies. He successfully campaigned to have a legal euthanasia law passed in Australia’s Northern Territory and was responsible for four people ending their lives before the law was overturned by the federal government.

In 2002, Nitschke “assisted” the barbiturate suicide of Nancy Crick, claiming that her bowel cancer had returned. He later admitted that Crick had not been ill when she died. 

In January 2007, Nitschke published the controversial book “The Peaceful Pill Handbook”, which was prohibited by the federal censorship regulator, the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification at the end of February 2007. The book was banned in New Zealand in June 2007 by that country’s Office of Film and Literature Classification.