School children are being shown footage of a notorious campaigner known as “Dr Death” demonstrating a lethal injection machine in a DVD about euthanasia.
The DVD is being shown to children aged 14 to 18, mainly those who are studying GCSE philosophy which includes euthanasia in the curriculum.
The news came just before it was revealed that an increasing, but still small, number of Britons are travelling to Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas – about 25 each year.
Dr Death – Australian Philip Nitschke – is shown on the controversial DVD giving workshops on assisted suicide methods, as well as demonstrating his machine that delivers lethal injections.
Pro-life group Care Not Killing also appears on the DVD along with disabled peer Baroness Campbell who gives an impassioned plea against assisted suicide.
Phyllis Bowman, from pro-life group Right to Life, said while it is “perfectly right” to have a debate about euthanasia, “fanatical views” from Dr Nitschke “do not help a constructive discussion”.
She commented: “His extreme views are being foisted on young people at one of the most impressionable periods of their lives”.
Psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy, a director of an anti-suicide programme, warned that the footage “has the potential for young people to think about ending their lives”.
Dr Cassidy continued: “There is a wealth of evidence that media – films, DVDs and videos – have encouraged a form of experimentation in suicide.
“And a film like this may well encourage young people to think they are a burden, that they don’t fit in or encourage them to feel vulnerable in another way.”
Pro-assisted suicide group Dignity in Dying also criticised Dr Nitschke’s appearance on the DVD.
But a producer and director with the group behind the DVD said teenagers should be given “all sides of the argument” to debate and “make their own minds up”.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government sets the curriculum but it leaves “it to teachers to use their common sense and professional judgment on what is best for their set of pupils”.
New figures revealed the number of Britons going to Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas increased from an average of 14 Brits a year between 2002 and 2007.
Figures for 2008 to 2010 show around 25 Brits a year travelled to the suicide clinic.
Last year the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer QC, released guidance which said prosecutions for assisted suicide are unlikely if the act was “motivated by compassion”.
No one has been yet been prosecuted over any of the Britons who have died at Dignitas.
Care Not Killing responded to the figures saying: “These figures show we have been right. The DPP’s approach has effectively legitimised assisted suicide and euthanasia in the UK.”