Controversy in NZ over Australian euthanasia book [Full Interview Transcript & Audio Link]
PM – Tuesday, 13 May , 2008 18:46:00
Reporter: Kerri Ritchie
BRENDAN TREMBATH: In New Zealand, right to life groups are outraged at a decision allowing a pro-euthanasia book co-written by Philip Nitschke to be sold in the country.
The Peaceful Pill Handbook was banned in Australia last year, but an edited version has been cleared for sale to New Zealanders over the age of 18.
While opponents are demanding the decision be reviewed, Philip Nitschke is now vowing to make another attempt to get his book into Australian shops.
New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.
KERRI RITCHIE: There in black and white, The Peaceful Pill Handbook outlines ways people can commit suicide.
Philip Nitschke hopes his book will be in New Zealand shops within a fortnight.
PHILIP NITSCHKE: We went to great lengths to try and address some of the concerns in the very detailed opinion that had been provided by chief censor Bill Hastings when he’s decided that the first version could not be distributed and we’re pleased that we seem to have addressed those issues.
KERRI RITCHIE: The book was banned in New Zealand last July.
But late last week, the Office of Film and Literature Classification overturned that decision.
Philip Nitschke says his book got the okay after 15 pages were revised and a couple of diagrams were removed.
PHILIP NITSCHKE: That relates particularly to areas where there’s been some concern about the fact that they direct or instruct them how to break the law. The essential material interestingly is still there.
It provides enough material of a practical nature, reliable, accurate and practical nature for people when they get the material that’s in this version to be able to affect a peaceful end of their life at the time of their choosing.
KERRI RITCHIE: The book can now be sold sealed to people over the age of18.
New Zealand’s chief censor Bill Hastings has defended his decision to approve the book, with an R18 classification, saying it was the most he could impose after the law was changed in 2005.
Right to life groups are appalled.
The Society for Promotion of Community Standards has written to the Film and Literature Board of Review demanding the decision be reversed.
Executive director David Lane.
DAVID LANE: Well our main concerns are that this book has the potential to be a pernicious influence amongst those who are vulnerable, particularly young people who have difficulties with relationships and depression who, for whatever reason do consider suicide as a way of opting out of life.
KERRI RITCHIE: He says the publisher has been cunning; getting approval in New Zealand before making another attempt for clearance in Australia.
DAVID LANE: What he’s done is he’s used the services of the chief censor’s office to determine from, shall we say a Kiwi perspective, what are all the phrases and sentences and paragraphs that are problematic and these have all been carefully pinpointed by Mr Bill Hastings, the chief censor.
He’s done the publisher a great service to some extent by clarifying all these and largely at taxpayer’s expense because what the publisher has paid by way of an application fee to get this done is minimal compared to the extent to which the chief censor has carried out his work here.
KERRI RITCHIE: He says the handbook is the last thing New Zealand needs.
DAVID LANE; I know that people say that the concern of the writer is to allow older people to look at their options late in life but when we talk about suicide in New Zealand we are very, very ashamed by the fact that we have one of the worst, if not the worst track records of developed countries.
The number of young people that commit suicide every year is something horrendous. And when this material is readily available through bookshops, it does the rounds, it gets passed around, people are curious, people who are vulnerable get access to this material and we’re keen to see young people who are vulnerable safeguarded from material that is injurious to the public good.
KERRI RITCHIE: Philip Nitschke says he hopes Australia authorities will now re-think their decision to ban the book.
PHILIP NITSCHKE: Obviously it’s a version which has been produced specifically for New Zealand, although we will be of course re-presenting that to the Australian censor now for their consideration after we’ve got the detailed set of reasons as to why it was accepted in New Zealand.
KERRI RITCHIE: Right to life groups say they will call for the shops which stock the book to be publicly shunned.
This is Kerri Ritchie in Auckland reporting for PM.
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