WE at the Freethinker rarely get the opportunity to praise members of the clergy, but today we salute the Rev David Coleman, of the United Reform Church in Brighton, for allowing Dr Philip Nitschke to hold a public discussion on euthanasia at the church-owned Brighthelm Centre yesterday.
True, Rev Coleman – in the face of strong opposition – drew the line at allowing Nitschke to hold a planned closed workshop, which I wanted to attend, but he did extend a warm welcome to the doctor’s Exit International team, saying that, while he neither approved nor condoned euthanasia, he passionately he believed people’s right to hold a discussion on it.
When he asked us not to have one of the closed meetings we said yes. That was because he was experiencing some criticism and pressure. I talked to him on the phone from Australia and he was wonderful. We are very grateful that he is supporting the process of allowing people to voice their opinions on this issue.
The meeting itself was a huge success, with around 80 people in attendance – and the majority were clearly supportive of Nitschke in his quest to provide people with “end of life” choices. The presentation, filled with humour and deep compassion, was an uplifting experience.
One of the funniest parts of a presentation was a short video – DIY with Betty – which had us in stitches. The 50s-styled video shows retired nurse Betty demonstrating how to make a suicide bag, used to induce hypoxia with the aid of a gas such as helium.
Betty suggests that “you might like to get your hair done” before putting the bag over your head and bidding farewell to the world.
That so many have conspired to have the man silenced is an absolute disgrace, and I am particularly incensed that, among the shrillest of his detractors is the British euthanasia organisation, Dignity in Dying, which first called on the Government to have him barred from the UK, then demanded that he be deported.
A spokeswoman for group Dignity in Dying welcomed the cancellation of the Brighton workshop, saying:
It’s a good thing that he has agreed not to do the workshop. Overall we are quite concerned about the workshops. They are irresponsible and dangerous.
There is nothing irresponsible about championing a person’s right to choose a quick, painless and effective exit from life if that’s what he or she wants, and to criminalise anyone who assists in such a suicide – as we do at present – is nothing short of barbaric.
Note: In our report yesterday we carried a picture of Dr Nitschke with what we wrongly described as a “suicide kit”. This was, in fact, a kit used to test the quality of euthanasia drugs such as Nembutal. This has now been corrected.