Euthanasia group plans to turn militant in NZ over the buying of lethal drugs
An Australian euthanasia advocate is vowing to set up a new militant arm of his organisation in New Zealand to import large quantities of lethal drugs.
Exit International director Philip Nitschke said his members were fed up with politicians' inaction, and would set up ExitAction as a shamelessly criminal group similar to the Aids drug-buying group portrayed in the movie Dallas Buyers Club.
"This is not something you beg for. This is something you take," Nitschke said.
It would mean that people wanting to take their own lives would not have to import euthanasia drugs illegally and – as happened earlier this year – receive visits from police.
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"We are not going to sit around for another decade while politicians wax and wane [on legalising euthanasia]," he said from Amsterdam.
When ExitAction was announced internationally earlier this month, Nitschke put out a statement saying access to euthanasia drugs was a right of all competent adults, "regardless of sickness or permission from the medical profession".
Exit members are believed to be concerned that the Government position could change under new Prime Minister Bill English, who is Catholic and a known opponent of voluntary euthanasia.
His wife Mary, a Wellington GP, told a health sub-committee hearing on the subject last month that legalising euthanasia would create ethical issues for doctors.
"A core principle has been that we do not kill our patients."
She repeatedly referred to pro-euthanasia laws by the acronym "MAD", or medically assisted dying. "It would be unsafe for those at risk of suicide."
A spokesman for the prime minister said on Wednesday that the Government's position had not changed.
"It remains the Government’s position that euthanasia is a conscience issue.
"As the prime minister has said, he does not personally support euthanasia, but would not stand in the way of members voting according to their conscience, should a member’s bill on the matter be drawn.
"A select committee is also currently considering a petition on the matter and is due to report back next year.
"Any New Zealanders considering illegally importing controlled substances should be aware there are consequences for doing so."
Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) president Maryan Street currently has a 8974-strong petition asking Parliament to investigate legislation that would permit medically assisted dying, in the event of terminal illness or an irreversible condition that made life unbearable.
She said on Wednesday that Exit's plans were "completely outside the area of activity that my organisation is involved in".
Police said: "The legislation regarding voluntary euthanasia is a matter for Government.
"However, the importation of controlled drugs, along with aiding and abetting suicide, remain serious offences in New Zealand and police will take appropriate steps when we become aware of allegations regarding these offences."