Dr Death attempts to dodge film law

A euthanasia advocate known as Dr Death is intent on showing Nelson people clips from suicide films which have created a storm of controversy.

Australian doctor Philip Nitschke has been touring New Zealand, holding euthanasia seminars and courting controversy over two short films that he likes to show.

The films instruct people on how to commit suicide.

His visit has drawn intense media attention, which he believed would help to draw a large crowd in Nelson.

There was a lot of interest in euthanasia from Nelson, largely due to its ageing population, but because bookings were not needed for Wednesday's talk, it was hard to gauge how many people would show up. Reports that it is sold out are unfounded.

Dr Nitschke told the Nelson Mail Tuesday morning that a London magazine, the New Statesman, had phoned seeking comment about New Zealand's "severe restrictions".

Chief censor Bill Hastings has warned that Dr Nitschke risks a jail term of up to 10 years if he shows the films and they subsequently fail the censorship process.

Dr Nitschke said he attempted to dodge the warning by showing a series of stills from the films alongside the full audio sound track in Wellington on Tuesday.

He then referred people to Internet site YouTube, where they could see the entire film.

He planned to do the same in Nelson on Wednesday and believed the move would mean he was not breaking the law, although a jail term was still a concern for him.

The clips come from the how-to-commit-suicide film The Single Shot, and Doing it with Betty - in which an elderly woman describes how to make a plastic "exit" bag.

The films face a possible ban in Australia but have not been submitted for classification in New Zealand.

The only Nelsonian Dr Nitschke knew of to attend his seminars and then go on to commit suicide was Ralph Vincent.

Mr Vincent was a high-profile campaigner for euthanasia who killed himself in 2005, aged 86, after the suicide of his severely arthritic wife.

Office of Film and Literature Classification spokesman David Wilson said the two films would not be reviewed unless a complaint was laid, or officials, including police, asked for a review.

If he was found to have contravened laws, Dr Nitschke could be fined $3000 for showing a film that should have been classified.

If a film was found to be "objectionable" and a successful prosecution followed, up to 10 years' prison was possible.

The office has confirmed it will review an edited version of Dr Nitschke's The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which censors banned last year.

His talk begins at 10am Wednesday at Melrose House, Brougham St, Nelson.




The Nelson Mail