An assisted suicide advocate known as Doctor Death is planning to hold public meetings and suicide ‘workshops’ in both the UK and Ireland later this month.
The ‘workshops’ focus on “practical end-of-life strategies” and include an in-depth exploration of different ways to commit suicide.
Attendance at the controversial workshops, due to be held in London and Dublin later this month, is restricted to those aged 50 and above and to the “seriously ill”.
Dr Philip Nitschke, nicknamed Dr Death, has attempted to justify his visit to Dublin by saying that he has had “significant interest” from older people in Ireland who want more information about their ‘end-of-life choices’.
Dr Nitschke, founder of right-to-die group Exit International, has targeted his workshops at areas with a vulnerable elderly audience before.
In 2008 Dr Nitschke attempted to hold a suicide workshop in Bournemouth because, he said, “there are lots of older people there”, but the event was cancelled after objections from the local council.
A number of assisted suicide campaigners have previously distanced themselves from Dr Nitschke and his methods.
Debbie Purdy, whose legal action led to the publication of new assisted suicide guidelines, and Margo MacDonald, the MSP pushing for legalising assisted suicide in Scotland, have both denounced his methods.
Dr Michael Irwin, formerly the chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, has previously described Dr Nitschke’s behaviour as “totally irresponsible”.
Last week the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC issued his final guidance on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide.
The new guidelines state that prosecution is unlikely if the act was “motivated by compassion”, but Mr Starmer took pains to remind people that assisting a suicide remains illegal.
Pro-lifers and disability groups have expressed alarm at the guidelines.
Dr Peter Saunders, of the Care Not Killing alliance, criticised the new rules: “Anyone who takes part in an assisted suicide is going to claim they were acting out of compassion. The only witness who really knows will be dead.”