Doctor plans euthanasia ship off Australian coast

Australia's leading euthanasia campaigner says he may set up a floating clinic if mercy killing is legalised next week in the Netherlands.

Australia's leading euthanasia campaigner says he may set up a floating clinic if mercy killing is legalised next week in the Netherlands.

Dr Philip Nitschke says that, if the Dutch senate passes the law formally legalising euthanasia, he would buy a Dutch-registered ship and practise euthanasia just outside Australian waters to circumvent Australian law.

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

Dr Nitschke said: "If this was a Dutch-registered vessel, it would be possible, legally, to provide access to voluntary euthanasia in international waters.

"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."

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

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

Mercy killing has occurred 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.

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