Controversial euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has hit out at a New Zealand coroner for his “quaint” and “nonsensical” comments on the joint suicide of a Kiwi couple.
Adrian Webster, 71, and his wife Marei, 76, died in a suicide pact and were discovered lying dead on a bed at their Paekakariki home north of Wellington last year.
Local body politician Webster had been suffering from terminal stomach cancer, and his wife, who had lost two other partners to disease, did not want to live without him.
Wellington coroner Garry Evans this week opted to reveal some details of their deaths to quell “speculation, rumour and suspicion” around the case.
However, Nitschke, an Australian medical doctor and prominent right-to-life advocate, says the coroner’s comments were quaint, nonsensical and inconsistent, and would only fuel more speculation on exactly how the pair died.
He says the Websters were members of his organisation Exit International, which helps people safely organise their own suicides.
“They were open about how they intended to end their lives when the effects of Adrian’s stomach cancer became intolerable,” said Nitschke from London.
He challenged the coroner to publish details of how the Websters achieved their “peaceful death” to inform New Zealanders of their options.
New Zealand coroners, as a rule, suppress the method of death in suicide cases.
He also criticised what he called the New Zealand government’s “continuous refusal… to address the issue of voluntary euthanasia and make legal options for a peaceful death available”.
Nitschke, often dubbed Dr Death, has advocated the use of gas-based products and pills so people may commit suicide unassisted, as well as travel to a Swiss clinic where assisted suicide can be carried out legally.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.