NRL News

Australian euthanasia activist concerned about losing his medical license

by | Nov 28, 2012

By Alex Schadenberg, executive director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last year, Philip Nitschke, Australia’s Dr. Death, established a fake brewing company to enable him to distribute tanks of Nitrogen gas without the authorities noticing what he was doing.

Paul Russell, the leader of HOPE Australia, sent the information from NItschke’s website to the medical authorities to question whether Nitschke was breaking the code of ethics for physicians by counselling and providing the means for suicide.

Nitschke is upset because the legal coverage that is provided for doctors in Australia will not cover the legal proceedings related to this case because it has nothing to do with his medical practice.

The Age newspaper in Australia published an article written by Julia Medew on November 26 outlining the concerns of the case. The article states:

Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke says he has been abandoned by his medical indemnity insurer as he fights a new medical board investigation that threatens his registration.

Anti euthanasia group, Hope, has complained about Dr Nitschke’s promotion and sale of nitrogen to members of Exit International, saying it has “overstepped the bounds of reasonable behaviour” and makes him an unfit person to hold a medical license.

Last year, Dr Nitschke set up a company to sell nitrogen to members of his group who are interested in buying the gas to commit suicide. The company’s website does not mention Exit International or Dr Nitschke.  

In a complaint to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority, executive director of Hope, Paul Russell, said although Dr Nitschke’s group had advised people of various methods to commit suicide in the past, selling nitrogen to people created “a far more direct relationship between Exit/Nitschke and the suicide candidate”.

While Dr Nitschke says he works predominantly as a human rights activist and scientist when he works for Exit International, Mr Russell has called for AHPRA to consider his workshops medical consultations.

“Were he to provide the kind of information he promotes in his workshops to a patient in his consulting rooms I doubt that anyone would disagree that such behaviour is inappropriate,” Mr Russell said in his complaint.  

In a letter to Dr Nitschke, AHPRA said it was investigating the matter. Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, it has the power to act against a practitioner who is not considered “a fit and proper person” to practice. It can suspend or cancel a doctor’s registration.

My question is:

If Philip Nitschke thought that there was nothing illegal or unethical about distributing Nitrogen tanks to people for the purpose of suicide, then why did he establish a fake brewing company for that purpose?

Editor’s note. This first appeared at

Categories: Euthanasia