Gardai forced to protect 'Dr Death' after online threat
GARDAI were forced to provide protection for a controversial doctor who supports assisted suicide, after he received a death threat before he was due to speak at a euthanasia workshop.
Dr Philip Nitschke, founder of assisted suicide advocacy group Exit International and dubbed 'Dr Death', said he received the threat on Twitter from a Cork-based user.
"It said: 'You better be wearing a bulletproof vest today'," he said.
Gardai were notified and were present at the group's workshop at Liberty Hall in Dublin on Saturday.
A previous talk given by Dr Nitschke in Dublin two years ago attracted significant opposition. However, there were no protesters outside the venue as the event got under way. One pro-life advocate who attended the open session did challenge Dr Nitschke as he was being interviewed by the media afterwards, prompting the Australian medic to walk away.
More than 40 people attended the first session of the workshop, where Dr Nitschke briefly outlined two methods of assisted suicide, including one which he claimed was undetectable.
People were then invited to a closed session – having signed a disclaimer that they would not act on what they heard.
Among the options he outlined was the use of nitrogen, in a method that he claimed was legal and untraceable. Dr Nitschke has a subsidiary company selling nitrogen canisters in Australia and New Zealand and he said he intends to bring the system to Ireland.
He is under investigation by the medical board in Australia over the ethics of his involvement in developing the system.
"There is nothing illegal about it," he said. "Some people really like the fact that it is legal. You don't have to run around trying to illegally import drugs."
The meeting was organised by Exit International Europe co-ordinator Tom Curran, partner of Marie Fleming, who recently lost a Supreme Court challenge to change the ban on assisted suicide.
Ms Fleming has multiple sclerosis and is physically unable to take her own life.
Mr Curran said that his partner takes great comfort from knowing the option to end her own life is available.
"Unfortunately, I have to break the law to give her that option.
"It is a comfort to her to know that she doesn't have to die painfully. The worry about how she is going to die has gone. She might die naturally, she might decide not to take that option but she has it," he said.