Australian euthanasia advocate wants Fiji death clinic

Prominent Australian right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke said Friday he wants to set up an assisted suicide clinic in Fiji, but the government in Suva downplayed the idea.

Nitschke, a doctor who has campaigned on euthanasia issues for more than a decade, wants it to operate like the Dignitas centre in Switzerland, where 144 people ended their lives in 2011, virtually all of them foreigners.

Nitschke, head of Exit International, told the Sydney Morning Herald it would make it easier for people from the Asia-Pacific who wanted to end their lives to do so, rather than having to travel to Europe.

"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.

He said he had written to Fiji's attorney-general who had asked for more details, and hopes his organisation can go to the Pacific nation to discuss the idea.

"The reality is that it's a very humane process, and a country which shows some compassion and concern for its neighbours, I think would entertain such ideas," he said in a separate interview with ABC radio.

A Fiji government spokesman confirmed they received Nitschke's proposal, but told AFP it was highly unlikely a death clinic would be approved in the predominantly Christian nation.

"As with all submissions received by the attorney-general's chambers, details of the proposal were requested. There is no plan to establish such a facility in Fiji," she said.

Assisted suicide, or euthanasia, is illegal in most countries around the world and is banned in Australia, although it was legal for a time in the Northern Territory before the law was overturned in the 1990s.

When it was legal in the Northern Territory, Nitschke became the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, voluntary, lethal injection to end a life, and he went on to do the same for three other people.

He said only seriously ill patients found by a psychiatrist to be of sound mind would be permitted to use the service proposed in Fiji.

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