Australian doctor plans death ship

MELBOURNE, Australia, AP

Australia’s leading euthanasia campaigner said Saturday he may set up a Dutch-registered floating euthanasia clinic off the Australian coast if mercy killing is legalized next week in the Netherlands.

Dr. Philip Nitschke said if the Dutch senate passed the law formally legalizing euthanasia, he would buy a Dutch-registered ship and practice euthanasia just outside Australian waters as a way of circumventing Australian law.

“If this was a Dutch-registered vessel, it would be possible, legally, to provide access to voluntary euthanasia in international waters,” he said.

“That’s the proposal, that we get such a ship and … provide assistance to people who would take such an opportunity if such a service existed.”

Nitschke rose to prominence when he performed euthanasia on four terminally ill patients after Australia’s Northern Territory state briefly legalized the practice in 1996.

The federal Parliament reversed the law less than a year later and mercy killing remains illegal in Australia but Nitschke continues to hold workshops for terminally ill patients advising on how to kill themselves.

The Dutch upper house is expected to pass the legislation next Tuesday making the Netherlands the first country to make euthanasia legal.

Mercy killing has been going on for years in the Netherlands with doctors avoiding prosecution if they adhere to strict guidelines governing the practice.

Nitschke said he was trying to find financial backing for the ship. He described the project as a long-term one, and would not speculate on when it might begin operations.

“I would like to see it get up and running. I recognize the problems and I recognize the degree of support we will have to mobilize, but certainly something will be moving forward now,” he said.