Friday, January 27, 2006

Copeland advocates censorship

Gordon Copeland wants the Minister of Immigration to bar Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke from entering New Zealand. He also wants the IT Minister to see of there is any way to "prohibit the establishment" of his website, Exit International.

I suggest Mr Copeland goes off and reads S 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which affirms freedom of expression and states

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

(Emphasis added).

While this is subject to "reasonable limits... as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society", but I can't for the life of me see how a ban on people saying that people ought to be allowed to take their own lives, or even telling them how to do it could be considered anything of the sort. In a free society, people are free to advocate positions that others disagree with or find offensive or wrong. That's what "freedom of expression" means.

Bluntly, if Copeland doesn't like what Dr Nitschke is saying, then he has an obvious course of action available: argue against it. Show why it is wrong. Convince people. That's what you do in a free society - but rather than doing that, Copeland would rather use the law in an effort to silence his opponents. I guess he's just too frightened that they might actually win the argument...


Now about that irksome Dr David Irving..:-)

Posted by Anonymous : 1/27/2006 09:52:00 PM

The problem with this kind of infomation and opinions is that they incite and aid an illegal action - suicide. Now you may argue that suicide (and assisting one) should not be illegal, but right now, it is.

We need to focus on palliative care, of course quality care is expensive and doesn't exactly provide an economic return on your investment. Top that off with family who find it hard to deal with the lingering death of their family member for a multiplicity of reasons and you are entering the "duty to die" territory.

I think that if a New Zealand citizen wishes to impart the infomation that Nitschke teaches, well then, so be free speech. But I'm not so sure about allowing a foreign national into our country to specifically promote an illegal activity. I think it would be different if he was here merely to participate in the debate about euthanasia, but it's more than that.

My fear is that Nitschke's high profile activities combined with specific information create an unreasonable pressure for those in arguably the most vulnerable time of their lives.

Posted by Muerk : 1/27/2006 11:06:00 PM

Suicide, as far as I can see, isn't illegal. It'll lose you any ACC entitlements, but I can't find any further punishment. Aiding and abetting suicide is a crime, other wise the Crimes Act just says that someone consenting to death is not a defense, and that a homicide commited as part of a suicide pact is manslaughter rather than murder. Counselling or inciting suicide is an offence in Niue, or if you're a member of the armed forces, but Nitschke is in neither of those positions.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/27/2006 11:47:00 PM

Muerk: this is not about Nitschke's views. It is about freedom of speech. In this country, freedom of speech does not depend on citizenship. And it extends to the sort of advocacy Dr Nitschke is engaging in. Incitement and aiding and abetting suicide are crimes - but what Exit International is doing is a long way from that standard, and in any case that only allows prosecution after the fact - not prior restraint.

WRT immigration, the only remotely feasible ground for denying entry is a belief on behalf of the Minister that Nitschke would be likely to commit an offence against the Crimes Act. Again, what they are doing isn't legally incitement, so there's no grounds for denial.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/27/2006 11:57:00 PM

Anon: I argued against those wanting to prevent Irving from visiting here.

With Irving, they used the fact that he had been previously deported from Canada (ultimately for ThoughtCrime) as a pretext - and it was a fairly shakey one. Here, they don't even have that.

I should also point out that Copeland strenuously opposed any investigation of the need for "hate speech" laws on the grounds that they interfered with freedom of speech. This makes his position on Nitschke the height of hypocrisy.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/28/2006 12:02:00 AM

I think he wants it shut down. Unfortunately, it's a little late.

About the only grounds he'd have would be if it was found to be objectionable under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993. But again, I don't think it comes anywhere near meeting the legal test for this.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/28/2006 02:07:00 AM


Hmmm... I would have thought that the lessons on how to make the suicide pill would count as aiding and abetting, hence my opinion that it was illegal and that he shouldn't enter the country.

But if teaching people how to make the pill is legal, well then I guess he should enter.

Posted by Muerk : 1/28/2006 11:38:00 AM


Suicide is indeed a great human tragedy, but there are better ways to oppose it than by trying to ban Nitschke's website.

For example, why not urge concerned parties to donate money to Suicide Prevention New Zealand? It would be far more practical, and it would directly save lives.

You're also right about palliative care, and I hope that you'll be supporting the Access to Medicines
Coalition as it tries to secure much-needed palliative medication for those who need it.

However, there's a cause and effect problem here. I suspect that our suicide assistance law
might well be restricted to cases
where someone provides instruments to assist the suicide of others.

Can that be said to happen if the
information is in book or website form? It would be difficult to try to establish causality in that instance.

Why do I suspect that Copeland is about to try to introduce something like Australia's federal
Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide
Related Offences)Act to our own
Parliament, as a private members bill, much as he did with his failed Marriage Amendment (Gender
Clarification) Bill last year?

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/28/2006 12:20:00 PM

Muerk: I should add that I agree entirely on palliative care, BTW. If you don't want people to think that killing themselves is the preferable solution, give them a better one.

Craig: I suspect you're right on the bill. However, I think it would be voted down by a substantial margin, at least if National allows a conscience vote on the issue. There's a fair number of Nats who believe on freedom of speech and who think that its better to have the argument rather than legally gag the opposition...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/29/2006 12:00:00 AM

It'd certainly complicate the relationship between UFNZ and NZF. Even if Winston votes for such a bill, I can't see Peter Brown doing that.

I think you're probably right on the likely defeat that such an anti-euthanasia censorship bill would face. Most of Labour, the Greens, liberal Nats and ACT would
undoubtedly vote it down, leaving Nat social conservatives, UFNZ and
probably Philip Field to vote for it.

Incidentally, what is the case law on this matter? I suspect that the Crimes Act probably focuses on direct assistance to those considering suicide, not arns-length guides to suicide methods.

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/29/2006 02:32:00 PM

> this is not about Nitschke's views. It is about freedom of speech.

If I was to promote the policy of killing you and discuss effective practical methods of killing you I expect that wouldn't be covered under free speach (or is it? If so I withdraw the objection).

The doctors actions seem to obviously and directly result in a series of crimes as a result of him using his position of responsibility - as a doctor. As muerk notes maybe assisting suicide (and maybe suicide itself) shouldn't be illegal - but it is. In this regard the doctor intentionally crosses lines Irving probably doesn't. I expect irving talks of the holocaust not happening and posibly jews being evil but probably not demonstrating how to gas jews.

Posted by Genius : 1/29/2006 10:14:00 PM

Has Nitschke advocated killing somebody then? That would certainly be foolish of him, cos it's not protected speech. A doctor promoting the option to assist his patients with their preferred treatment, that however is protected speech - or at least, would be if our Bill of Rights was actually worth anything.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 1/30/2006 04:20:00 AM

I suspect that the crux of the matter would be its generality as well. He is not intent on assisting any specific person to commit suicide, as Jack Kevorkian did, at this stage.

Instead, he is discussing suicide methods within a workshop. There's nothing to stop an individual attending a workshop, then perusing online material about palliative care options on a palliative care information website, then deciding not to go ahead with it.

Indeed, that appears to be what usually happens under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act 1994/97.

Is it "assistance" if no specific
person is intended as recipient of the information?

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/30/2006 12:47:00 PM

Sadly Nitchke has in the past been involved with personal euthanasia cases. The one with the highest publicity was Nancy Crick.

Posted by Muerk : 1/30/2006 01:54:00 PM