NRL News

No barriers to access to suicide methods at Exit

by | Jul 3, 2014


By Paul Russell, Executive Director, HOPE

Philip Nitschke

Philip Nitschke

The Australian ABC TV network is running a story about two men who separately suicided using Exit International’s methods. Both were in contact with Exit. Neither was terminally ill. Neither had reached Exit’s arbitrary age of 50 years.

This confirms what Dr. Philip Nitschke has always maintained, that suicide should be available to any adult. This formula usually adds: ‘of sound mind’. But these two cases burst the bubble of that myth wide open.

Nigel Brayley was 45 years old and not only had met Dr. Nitschke in Perth but had also corresponded with him by email. ABC reporter Caitlin Gribbin confronted Nitschke with the text of some of these emails where Brayley confirmed that he was not 50 years of age, not terminally ill but planned to suicide within two weeks.

Ms. Gribbin confronted Nitschke and asked:

“Did you try to stop him? Did you communicate with him that perhaps he should seek some sort of counselling?”

Nitschke replied:

“No. I – look – it’s not – if a person comes along and says to me that they’ve made a rational decision to end their life in two weeks, I don’t go along and say, ‘Oh, have you made a rational decision? Do you think you better think about it? Why don’t you have a counsellor come along and talk to you?’ We don’t do that.”

Nitschke went on to confuse capacity to make decisions and what he calls ‘rational suicide’. He claimed that,

“If a person is so depressed that they are – lost capacity, they can’t articulate anything. The fact that he was so insightful in his decision to make this choice indicates to me that he was indeed a person [who] had not lost capacity. I’m not saying he wasn’t depressed, but was he so depressed that should constrain him? Should we have certified him? Should we have put him into a psychiatric institution? Should we have restricted him in some way? Of course not. He was not at that level of depression. And people like that should not have their freedom curtailed. So I would object to that idea that you’re saying he’s depressed, therefore we shouldn’t talk to him.”

How on earth can Nitschke or anyone else assess capacity and rationality from an email? It is simply not true to suggest that someone who appears rational cannot also be deeply depressed and suicidal. The fact that Mr. Brayley was clearly suicidal is a rather large clue! Suicidal people can and do often appear to be decidedly rational; having made the macabre decision, defending it in an email would not be difficult.

Consider also how after a suicide, friends and family will sometimes be heard to say that they never saw any problem or signs of difficulty. This is particularly so with youth suicide.

Which brings me to the second story of a 25 year old man: Joe Waterman. Joe masqueraded on Nitschke’s Exit site as being 50 or more years of age. He seems to have been suffering a depressive illness. To say he masqueraded is probably overstating it. According to the news report, he ticked a check box at the bottom of a registration page. What person, as his mother observes, who wanted Exit’s services would not think about a simple check-box click to get what they so desperately wanted?

This observation alone destroys forever this thin veneer of responsibility that Exit tries to cultivate.

In calling Mr. Waterman ‘a liar’ Nitschke was at least being accurate, as his parents agreed. But surely, in his state of mind, such a lie was a rational decision. Nitschke then observes that,

“the book is not made available people unless they’re 50 years of age or more unless there’s special circumstances. So, I guess if he wants to tell us those lies and accesses the book and then misuses it, I guess we can’t always be able to protect against that. It’s a tragedy.”

So, one of the deaths is a “rational suicide” but the other, of a much younger man, who displayed similarly “rational” behaviour is a tragedy. Nitschke is tying himself in knots here.

But, ever the salesman, he either doesn’t care or doesn’t get it. This tweet says it all:


But he cannot hide behind a check-box just as he can’t hide behind his own untested claim that one of these men at least was supposedly rational.

The suicide promotion and suicide industry of which Exit is a major player needs to feel the heat of the public gaze. That’s why I have, today, called of a national inquiry into the operation of Exit International and other pro-euthanasia groups that conduct similar clandestine advocacy.

If we ever learn to accept that suicide is a rational response to human difficulty we will have betrayed the many years of effective suicide prevention in this country just as we will have abandoned those in desperate need and the families left behind in a trail of unanswered questions, tragedy and unresolved misery.

This has to stop!

[This appeared at]


Categories: Assisted Suicide