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I’ve just heard from Dr Philip Nitschke, the Australian euthanasia campaigner sometimes known as “Dr Death”, that the police have pulled the plug on his planned seminar in Singapore, less than two weeks before it was scheduled to take place in the National Library building.
The police have refused to grant Nitschke’s organisation, Exit International, a public entertainment licence on the grounds that his talk “may promote the commission of criminal offences in Singapore, of which euthanasia is one”.
Nitschke said that the decision was “immensely disappointing” and that he was talking to lawyers about the possibility of an appeal.
He had earlier insisted that he had no intention of breaking the law in Singapore and that his seminar would focus on existing legislation surrounding voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. He explained that he would not be offering the sort of information about effective suicide methods that he provides in talks in the UK and Australia.
Nitschke also claimed that he had initially received permission to hold the talk from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower over a month ago, although this was always conditional on the police granting a public entertainment licence.
“When the idea first came up of holding a public meeting in Singapore in response to the increasing number of queries we receive from that country about the state of the law reform debate, we thought it excellent,” Nitschke said. “We feel awful about disappointing the people who have made contact with us and who are interested in this cutting edge social issue.”
With Singapore’s population ageing rapidly and health services under pressure, health minister Khaw Boon Wan last year called for a public debate about end-of-life issues. However, following increasing publicity and online chatter about Nitschke’s planned seminar in Singapore, Khaw voiced his opposition to the talk earlier this week.
“A workshop to teach the terminally ill how to commit suicide, and in fact, break our law, is not welcome here,” he told the Straits Times, adding that “euthanasia, which means helping the patient to commit suicide, is not what the Ministry of Health is promoting”.