Three British venues have cancelled their bookings for controversial demonstrations by a euthanasia campaigner known in the media as ‘Dr Death’.
The Community Arts Forum in Belfast had no idea that Dr Philip Nitschke was going to explain how his ‘death machine’ worked until they received a press release, prompting them to scrap the event.
Only eight people attended his Dublin workshop and two venues in Eastbourne pulled out when they realised who he was, leaving only Cardiff and London.
In preparing for the UK part of his tour, Dr Nitschke originally booked the Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club in Eastbourne, but they cancelled his booking when they discovered what he was planning to speak on.
The club said it wanted to avoid the publicity of “something this controversial”.
The doctor then tried to book the Under Ground Theatre in the seaside town, but they too backed out.
Speaking of the Community Arts Forum’s decision to cancel Dr Nitschke’s Belfast workshop, Heather Floyd said she was unaware of his plans “at the time of booking” and the Forum’s decision to pull out was made after “careful consideration” of the nature of the event.
“The first we heard about the death machine was through a press release that was sent to us. After careful consideration we decided our venue was not suitable for such a high profile event,” she said.
“We also felt it was not suitable for something of this nature.”
DUP MLA Lord Morrow has welcomed the Forum’s decision not to host the event.
“I am glad this man is not visiting Northern Ireland,” the Ulster politician said. “His soft words about ‘assisted dying’ do not remove the fact that the practice he encourages is illegal in the United Kingdom.
“It is welcomed that in the last five years the UK Parliament has rejected the proposal of ‘assisted suicide’ three times and rightly so.”
He went on: “Our laws should always be moulded around saving life and sustaining life.”
On Wednesday last week, Dr Nitschke took part in a debate at University College Dublin, when he urged Irish politicians to change the law to allow euthanasia.
Dr Nitschke’s motion that euthanasia should be legalised was passed and he hosted one of his suicide workshops the following day at the Seomra Spraoi in Dublin.
But only eight delegates attended the event and were dwarfed by a pro-life demonstration outside, attended by more than 50 people.
The protesters carried signs which read “Don’t kill the sick and vulnerable” and “Suicide ‘workshop’ illegal and sick”.
Protest organiser Maria Mhic Meanmain, who lost both her parents to debilitating illnesses, spoke of the doctor “normalising suicide” and said, “I know that palliative care, family support and love are what help at the end of life – not making elderly people feel as if they are a burden.”
And Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Dublin-based Life Institute, which supported the protest, added, “Nitschke’s reckless and dangerous promotion of suicide will lead directly to the death of people in this country.”
Dr Nitschke attained notoriety in Australia in the mid-1990s when he was responsible for the deaths of four individuals who used his euthanasia machine when assisted suicide was legal in the country’s Northern Territory for a nine month period.
Under the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a person who intentionally encourages or assists the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, commits an offence which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Dr Nitschke plans to hold suicide workshops, which demonstrate the use of his ‘death machine’, in Cardiff and London later this week.