Date: August 24 2012
THE Fijian government is considering a proposal to open an assisted-suicide clinic where seriously ill Australians and others could go to die.
The Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke has proposed a ''hastened death service'' in Nandi which would operate like the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where about 1000 foreigners have died since 1998.
While a handful of European countries and two US states have legalised euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, the Dignitas clinic is the only one in the world that allows foreigners to use its service.
In a proposal sent to Fiji's Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Dr Nitschke said the developing country could generate ''considerable income'' from a clinic.
''As of 2011, only six Australians and no New Zealanders have travelled to use the Dignitas service,'' Dr Nitschke, the head of Exit International, wrote. ''Given the logistical problems faced by those in the Asia Pacific travelling to Europe when seriously ill, Exit would suggest that a mirror clinic is well warranted in this region of the world.''
He said only seriously ill patients found by a psychiatrist to be of sound mind would be permitted to use the service. If people met these criteria, a two-day cooling-off period would apply before they could take lethal drugs under medical supervision.
In a letter seen by the Herald, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum asked for a more detailed submission and said he looked forward to discussing the matter with Dr Nitschke in person.
A Fiji expert at the Australian National University, Professor Brij Lal, said although the Fijian government ruled by decree and could agree to such a clinic without consulting its conservative and mostly Christian population, it was unlikely to take on such a morally charged issue.
A former attorney-general in the Whitlam government and Exit member, Kep Enderby, said he hoped Fiji would approve the clinic. If his health deteriorated and he had no other options, he would travel to Fiji to die. ''I would applaud the Fijian government taking such a step,'' said Mr Enderby, a retired judge and QC.
The president of Right to Life Australia, Dr John James, said he hoped Fiji would reject the plan, which he described as dangerous, particularly for people with mental illnesses.
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