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Euthanasia campaigner arrested in New Zealand

The controversial Australian euthanasia advocate and doctor Phillip Nitschke has been arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, and books that he had in his possession have been seized. Nitschke, the moving spirit behind Exit International, had gone to New Zealand to host some ‘workshops’ on euthanasia.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of euthanasia, this seems to me to be a clear case of ‘thoughtcrime’, and New Zealand authorities deserve nothing but scorn for this.

11 comments to Euthanasia campaigner arrested in New Zealand

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Nietzsche said “God is dead”

    Nitschke said “I am God”

    Euthanasia is a no-brainer. You own your body. You may do whatever you want with it, including terminate your own existence.

  • Sunfish

    What’s troubling to me about this: the article doesn’t actually say what Nitschke was charged with. Was one of the books hollowed out and filled with tar heroin and stolen artwork?

    Maybe it’s lazy reportage, but it’s hard for me to imagine a credible arrest without someone citing the law allegedly violated.

  • Well, that is the land of Dear Helen, after all.

  • Brendan Halfweeg commented:

    Euthanasia is a no-brainer. You own your body. You may do whatever you want with it, including terminate your own existence.

    Surely, from his argument, that also applies also to these teen suicides.

    Personally, I think it is a lot more complicated than Brendan claims.

    There are aspects of mental/intellectual vulnerability to be considered, including temporary ‘depression’, the effect of drugs (recreational or otherwise), and malicious or foolhardy peer pressure.

    Sadly for purist liberterians, there is also the aspect of the relevant justice system wanting to differentiate with confidence (and probably with only modest effort) between lawful and unlawful killing. And, of course in the case of assisted suicide, there is no defence of lack of intent (say through negligence) — or is there?

    Paraphrasing TW: apart from that, it’s all obvious.

    [Oh, and I don’t know whether Phillip Nitschke was reasonably suspected of commiting a crime in New Zealand. Who would on the information available (a newpaper report based on a statement by one side)? The line can be somewhat fuzzy, between arguing for a change in the law and inciting others to break the current law; likewise the line between the diligent and over-zealous state official. Perhaps more information will be thrown up by the commentariat.]

    Best regards

  • Euthanasia is a no-brainer. You own your body. You may do whatever you want with it, including terminate your own existence.

    I have no problem with people killing themselves if they want to (although human life is precious, and it is a very sad thing when they do). However, I am not sure that this is what “Euthanasia” is about. The question is more “When is it okay for somebody to help somebody else commit suicide?”. Is it still murder if the victim has asked you to kill them? Is it still murder if you have persuaded the victim to give you permission to kill them?

    Euthanasia legislation seems to answer these questions with “Yes, it is still murder, except in certain circumstances and with certain procedures when the state and medical establishment (which is so regulated as to essentially be part of the state) gives permission. I emphatically do not trust either the state or the medical establishment enough to give them such a power. In a sense, legalising euthanasia is the nationalising of suicide, and I think it is just as bad an idea as nationalising anything else.

    In many cases, the people who would want euthanasia are sick people in extreme pain. Often, there are drugs that will relive the pain, but the patients are not allowed to take them as a consequence of the idiotic “war on drugs”. Passing laws that declare that it is okay for them to die, but not okay to take drugs that might make them feel better seems to me to be obscene.

    I don’t know what Dr Nitschke has done in this particular instance. If he has just been expressing different arguments to mine, then obviously he should not have been arrested. Similarly, if he was promoting books that give information as to how to kill yourself, once again he should have a complete right to do so. However, I will confess I find him a somewhat creepy figure. (Again, this should not be itself illegal).

  • Ivan


    Maybe it’s lazy reportage, but it’s hard for me to imagine a credible arrest without someone citing the law allegedly violated.

    Apparently, he was in possession of certain books banned in New Zealand. I’m pretty sure that trying to import those into the country is a fairly serious offense, at least on paper. Also, the article doesn’t say anywhere that he was arrested except in the title — the further text specifies that he was held by the border police for a few hours and that some of his materials were confiscated.

  • Jorad

    Somehow I had to think of the suicide booths from Futurama when I read that.
    … and yes, books describing how to kill yourself without making a mess shouldn’t be banned.

  • Deirdre

    The issue of euthanasia is not what troubles me, it’s the fact that his book, The Peaceful Pill, was banned in Australia about a year ago. Really? Are we really getting to that point? Alegedly the government was pressured by religious groups. These groups should be pressuring the books clientel, not getting the government to “protect” them.

  • Camryn


    He was just detained, not arrested.

    I can’t understand the justification for banning his books in Australia, or why NZ would object to books that have not been banned in NZ. The article indicates that it could’ve been his intent to show unclassified films to the public. I doubt they’re normally so vigilant on that type of thing though.

  • Brendan Halfweeg


    The tragic suicide of those teenagers notwithstanding, from a fundamental point of view, no one should be forced to endure existence. Is it moral to try to prevent suicide? Yes. But this means more than forcibly taking the knife from someone’s hand as they are about to drain their lifeblood, but in living a full life and involving yourself in the lives of those close to you to the extent that they will permit you. Creating circumstances in which others choose life over obliteration is within each of our remit. No government programme will ever prevent teen suicide, it is up to us.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Michael, I agree with you. Formalising euthanasia would be wrong. Allowing the police and courts to deal with the context of the crime and with discretion is much more appropriate. The law should generally be on the side of preventing death and punishing those that deal in death. If it was my loved one lying in agony from some incurable disease and they asked me to terminate their life, I’d hope I’d have the strength to carry out their wishes and face the consequences of my actions. An investigation of my actions and eventual dismissal of any charges is what I would expect from any humane legal system when it comes to euthanasia.

    Written laws work best when they are clear cut and simple. Police, prosecutors and judges work best when they are given discretionary power. Any law on euthanasia would probably make it harder for the ethical and loving treatment of the dying, just as environmental laws often have harmed that which they seek to protect.