In 2006, the euthanasia campaigner, Dr Phillip Nitschke, published THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
The Peaceful Pill Handbook
In the Peaceful Pill Handbook Dr Philip Nitschke draws upon the latest scientific research on end of life choices to share a range of practical and useful strategies that everyone can understand.
By applying Exit’s ‘Reliability - Peacefulness (RP) Test’ to each approach, The Peaceful Pill Handbook enables readers to compare for themselves the benefits of various options such as Nembutal from Mexico, Helium and the Exit Bag, prescription drugs, carbon monoxide, cyanide and, of course, the DIY ‘Peaceful Pill.’ This unique practical focus serves not only to prevent unnecessary and unwanted mistakes and harm, but upholds people’s right to make informed choices in this most sensitive issue.
To ensure that readers know fully where they stand and that responsibility for actions can be taken, The Peaceful Pill Handbook also provides a thorough outline of the legal aspects of various approaches. The over-arching paradigm of the book is to ensure the seriously ill and the elderly maintain their respect, dignity and sense of control in EOL decision-making.
1. End of Life Considerations
2. Suicide and the Law
3. The Peaceful Pill
4. The Exit RP Test
5. Hypoxic Death & Exit Bag
6. Carbon Monoxide
8. Introduction to Drugs
9. Drug Options: Morphine
10. Drug Options: Propoxyphene
11. Drug Options: Nembutal
12. The Peanut Project
13. Overseas Options
14. After it’s All Over
15. Concluding Comments
In September 2006, the Australian Customs Service confiscated 45-copies of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
Peaceful Pill Handbook Seized by Customs
A Peaceful Death is Everybody's Right
On 20 September 2006, authorities in Brisbane seized a suitcase containing 45 copies of Dr Philip Nitschke’s new Peaceful Pill Handbook.
Intended as display copies for the book’s Australian launch by SA MP Hon Sandra Kanck at the Sydney ROTI Conference, the books are now with Australian Customs.
To recover the books and to assert the right of Australians to end of life information, Exit is now working with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney to mount a legal challenge to this decision. Support has been offered from senior lawyers and it is expected that a challenge to the Federal Government’s heavy handed behaviour will be mounted in the Federal court. Details of this action, a case considered to be “in the public interest”, will be published in the next newsletter.
Luckily, the seizure of these books does not appear to have impacted negatively upon Exit supporters’ individual orders from Exit USA.
To date, Exit knows of no one who has not received their order because of action by Australian Customs. Rather, the first print run has already sold out. Exit Australia has been informed that a second print run is currently under way.
So, if you have ordered the Handbook and are awaiting delivery take heart. It is likely you will receive your book. However, if anyone does receive notice from Customs that their delivery has been seized, please notify the Exit office immediately. Exit believes it is our fundamental right to access information. We will not allow the Government, via its insidious legislative arm, to dictate to us.
PP Handbook Launches in Toronto & Sydney
A Peaceful Death is Everybody's Right
Exit International was delighted and honoured to have renowned Final Exit author and VE activist Derek Humphry launch The Peaceful Pill Handbook at the World Federation Society conference in Toronto in Canada in September.
The book is dedicated to Derek “for his courage and compassion in showing the way”.
The event was attended by around 50 people and generated significant book sales at the conference. The launch was covered by CTV (Canadian TV), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and The Globe and Mail and La Presse newspapers.
The Australian launch of The Peaceful Pill Handbook was held in Sydney at the Remembering ROTI Conference on 22 September.
Despite the seizure of the book by Australian Customs, several inspection copies were available and South Australian MP Hon Sandra Kanck launched the book, arguing that Australians have a right to free speech.
At the morning tea launch, Philip Nitschke spoke about the long research and writing process while coauthor Fiona Stewart read the book’s last chapter.
Peaceful Pill Handbook Submitted for Classification
A Peaceful Death is Everybody's Right
Upon legal advice from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney, Exit has now submitted The Peaceful Pill Handbook to the Office of Film and Literature Classification for classification.
Exit was advised to take this step given that the book had been seized by Customs and has been deemed by them to be a “prohibited import.”
As we go to press, a decision from the OFLC is pending. Of the possible classifications for the Peaceful Pill Handbook, the worst result - and the one considered most likely in the current political climate - is the RC rating (RC=Refused Classification). If this decision is made by the OFLC, it will be the harshest decision imposed on an end of life book and will warrant an immediate appeal.
Another possibility, and one that Exit would welcome, is a ‘Restricted Class 1’ rating which would mean that while the book could be sold in Australia, it can only be distributed by licensed bookshops and it must be packaged in a plain wrapper and stored on a high shelf, out of reach.
Exitorial: Phillip Nitschke
A Peaceful Death is Everybody's Right
In the face of significant American and European opposition to Exit’s Peaceful Pill project I was delighted this month to receive the first assay of the group’s first prototype Peaceful Pill. These results should silence some of the loudest critics at the recent World Federation Conference in Canada where Exit was criticised for embarking on a project which was claimed by some to be dangerous and unworkable.
As the director of Exit, I am well aware of the ambitious nature of the DIY (Do It Yourself) Peanut agenda. There were considerable setbacks to the project along the way; setbacks that no one could have foreseen. However, it seems now that perseverance and considerable ingenuity, has led the group to success.
Exit has every right to be very proud of this project and we are now confident of the future of Peanut, as subsequent groups take over its running. And our comment to those who were so dismissive of Peanut and who cling to the outdated plastic bag techniques - look around, the world is changing.
On a less optimistic front, The Peaceful Pill Handbook is under serious threat in Australia . The seizure of the books by Customs in Brisbane in September was the first setback. Now a classification decision is pending, we are not optimistic that the book will receive a rating that will allow distribution in Australia. While the Public Interest Advocacy Centre is still considering the legal merits of an appeal in the Federal Court, Exit has now been informed by Customs that the confiscated books will shortly be subject to a “condemnation order” and will be destroyed. Meanwhile seriously ill and elderly people are left with no right to access end of life information. We must challenge the government on their repressive policies of censorship and restriction.
I encourage everyone who cares about end of life human rights to join us on our Freedom Ride to Canberra on 25 - 27 March next year. The older persons’ Freedom Ride will not only be great fun but it will be a powerful way to give older people a voice and remind both major political parties that we, too vote and that our votes must be taken seriously.
In September 2006, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Lynette Allison, put some questions to the government regarding the customs confiscations of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Christopher Ellison, finally got around to answering the questions in November 2006.
No. 13, 2006
THURSDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2006
FIRST SESSION—SEVENTH PERIOD
BY AUTHORITY OF THE SENATE
Peaceful Pill Handbook (Question No. 2520)
Senator Allison asked the Minister for Justice and Customs, upon notice, on 29 September 2006:
(1) Can the Minister confirm that 45 copies of the Peaceful Pill Handbook authored by Dr Philip Nitschke were seized by the Australian Customs Service at Brisbane Airport on 19 September 2006.
(2) What was the reason for the seizure.
(3) If, as reported, a reason is that the book includes the incitement to suicide, can the offending incitement( s) be identified, including page references.
(4) Is it the case that the books will be destroyed in 21 days if no appeal is made; if so: (a) what is the reason for this timeframe; and (b) can an extension be applied for, if this proves too short a time period in which to prepare an appeal.
Senator Ellison—The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(1) On 19 September 2006 Customs seized forty-five (45) books titled ‘The Peaceful Pill Handbook’ authored by Dr Phillip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart. The handbooks were in the possession of a passenger arriving at Brisbane International Airport.
(2) Customs examined the handbooks and considered they breached Regulation 3AA of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956. Regulation 3AA prohibits the import of devices and documents relating to suicide. The following is an extract from the regulations;
3AA Importation of devices and documents relating to suicide
(1) The importation of a device designed or customised to be used by a person to commit suicide, or to be used by a person to assist another person to commit suicide, is prohibited absolutely.
(2) The importation of the following documents is prohibited absolutely: (a) a document that promotes the use of a device mentioned in subregulation (1);
(b) a document that counsels or incites a person to commit suicide using one of those devices;
(c) a document that instructs a person how to commit suicide using one of those devices.
(3) The handbooks were seized pursuant to subsection 3AA(2)(c) as they are considered to instruct a person on how to commit suicide using a suicide device. The provisions under the Customs Act 1901 that govern the seizure process for prohibited imports, also provide an opportunity for the owner to obtain an independent assessment of the goods before a magistrate, should the owner dispute Customs assessment. Since the matter is yet to be finalised between Customs and the owner it would be inappropriate for me to provide further comment on the specific details of this matter at this time.
(4) There are provisions under the Customs Act 1901 that govern the seizure process for prohibited imports and exports. The Act provides:
- A seizure notice must be served on the owner within seven (7) days of seizure of the prohibited goods. A letter from Customs accompanies this notice.
- The owner may, within thirty (30) days from the date of the service of the notice, lodge a claim for the return of the seized goods. The claim must be on an approved form and the owner must provide their grounds for the return of the goods.
- If a claim is not made within this thirty (30) day period, the goods will be condemned as forfeited to the Crown.
- If a claim is lodged and, after considering the claim, the goods are still suspected by Customs to be prohibited imports then Customs must, within 120 days after the claim is made, commence proceedings in court to obtain a declaration that the goods are special forfeited goods and an order to condemn them as forfeited to the Crown.
- Goods forfeited to the Crown are generally destroyed after the seizure and condemnation processes are finalised.
Following the customs confiscation, it was decided to submit THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK to the Classification Board. In December 2006, Exit International were awarded a Category 1 rating for the 216-page book.
The Peaceful Pill Handbook (in Australia)
In December 2006, the Office of Film and Literature Classification decided to provide The Peaceful Pill Handbook with a 'Restricted Class 1' Classification. This meant that although the book was still a Prohibited Import and subject to seizure by Customs - the book could be published and distributed in Australia under strict controls.
The Australian edition is now available - for people in Australia they can now order direct from Exit.
Exit is also negotiating the books distribution within Australia through major retail outlets
The Peaceful Pill Handbook (outside Australia)
The Peaceful Pill Handbook has been deemed a 'Prohibited Import' by the Australian Government is available for people outside Australia from Exit International US
The book was recently launched by best selling author Derek Humphry at the World Federation conference in Toronto in Sept 2006. The book has sold extremely well and is already into its third print run.
New life for book of death
theaustralian.com.au, December 22, 2006
Dr Nitschke had the first 45 copies of the book printed in the US but they were seized at Brisbane airport under Customs regulations that make documents that instruct in or incite suicide prohibited imports.
"Clearly, the federal Government wants to have them destroyed," Dr Nitschke said. "We're very happy the umpire has said they are OK."
He said he now planned for the book to be in stores by next month.
"We won't make the Christmas rush," he said.
A spokesman for Justice Minister Chris Ellison said the books were seized according to laws which came into effect in September 2002 that prohibited "absolutely" devices designed to be used to assist suicide and documents that instruct in or promote their use.
Customs also seized 69 pamphlets in Brisbane but returned them after they were assessed as not meeting the criteria of prohibited imports.
"The goods were not concealed," the spokesman said.
The decision to allow the book to be sold under the category-one classification was made despite objections of some board members who believed it should be banned under the anti-suicide-promotion laws.
In January 2007, the Attorney-General applied to the Review Board to have the Category 1 rating of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK examined.
In 2006, Phillip Ruddock had done the same thing to the Muslim 'terrorism books'.
SUICIDE HANDBOOK REFERRED FOR REVIEW
Media Release 006/2007
12 January 2007
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has today asked the Classification Review Board to review the classification of The Peaceful Pill Handbook, a publication which provides information on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.
In September 2006, the Australian Customs Service seized copies of the book as a prohibited import under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956. In December 2006 the Classification Board classified it as Category 1 – Restricted, meaning it had been approved for distribution.
The Attorney-General said this highlighted an apparent anomaly in the application of two pieces of Commonwealth legislation.
“The means is that the publication is legally available within Australia but it cannot be legally imported into Australia,” Mr Ruddock said.
Under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Attorney-General can apply to the Classification Review Board for a review of a Classification Board decision.
“This is an important issue and a classification review is the appropriate mechanism for testing the classification of this material,” Mr Ruddock said.
Ruddock appeals suicide book release
theage.com.au, January 13, 2007
A spokesman for Mr Ruddock said Canberra was appealing the decision to allow the book's publication because it was at odds with laws that banned importation of materials that "promoted, counselled or instructed in how to commit suicide".
In September 45 copies that had been printed in the United States were confiscated at Brisbane airport.
The spokesman said "the Government seeks to protect vulnerable individuals in the community" and in 2005 had changed the law to make it an offence to use "a carriage service to access, transmit or publish materials that promote, counsel or incite suicide".
Dr Nitschke said the first Australian print run of 2000 books had begun and he had received inquiries from several stores.
Ruddock attempts to ban euthanasia book
abc.net.au/news, January 13, 2007
Dr Nitschke denies his book would lead to an increase in Australia's suicide rate.
"Desperate people are the ones who do desperate things," he said.
"What we find is that when people are in possession of the best information, feel like they have choices and control, is that they actually live longer.
"So I simply don't agree with that idea that putting this information out is going to lead to a spate of suicides.
"Rather it will help or improve the overall general health of a lot of anxious and elderly folk at present."
Dr Nitschke says the Government's action is a violation of Australia's democratic rights.
"Over months [the OFLC] considered this book and they finally made the decision that yes, under strict restrictions, it should be distributed to Australians," he said.
"Then to have the Minister come along and say, 'no, I don't like this decision,' I mean if this is the case why doesn't every book that comes into Australia go straight to Philip Ruddock's desk.
"He's the deciding agent it would seem in Australia, not the body which is supposedly independent."
Review announced for The Peaceful Pill Handbook
Classification Review Board
16 January 2007
The Classification Review Board has received applications to review the classification for the book entitled The Peaceful Pill Handbook, written by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart.
The full Board of the Classification Review Board will convene to consider this item on Wednesday 7 February 2007. In determining the classification of this material, the Review Board will ensure that a range of viewpoints are considered.
The review is in response to an application from the Australian Attorney-General. Under the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the Attorney-General may make an application for a decision at any time.
An application for review has also been lodged by the Right to Life Association (NSW). This application is being processed.
The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.
Another challenge to book banning
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has been recognised by the Classification Review Board as an interested party in the Commonwealth Government's latest attempt to ban The Peaceful Pill Handbook by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart.
The Attorney General (Commonwealth) and the Right to Life Association (NSW) have applied to the Review Board to review the December 2006 decision of the Classification Board to classify the book Restricted R1 - which means that it can be sold only in a sealed package. You can read the Board's decision here.
CCL's submission is in two parts. See Part 1.
Part 2 has been written by CCL member, Frank Moorhouse.
CCL has consistently opposed the Government's attempts to prevent people from having access to information about suicide. See our submission to the Senate inquiry on the Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Bill 2005.
Date 06 February, 2007
Database: Senate Hansard
Speaker Fielding, Sen Steve (Leader of the Family First Party, FFP, Victoria, Opposition)
ADJOURNMENT Suicide Speech Senator FIELDING (Victoria—Leader of the Family First Party) (7.52 p.m.)—Over the Christmas holiday break I read that euthanasia doctor Philip Nitschke had recently published a suicide manual and that the Attorney-General has asked the Classification Review Board to consider banning this dangerous book. Family First is pleased the federal government is taking action to ban a book that gives people with suicidal thoughts the information to end their lives. That is not the help they need. They do not need lethal help; they need life-saving assistance. Books promoting terrorism are banned or restricted in Australia, so it is quite reasonable to ban books that promote terminating life.
When we think of the tragedy of suicide, we often think of teenagers and older Australians who are ill. We think of teenagers facing the difficulties of adolescence and we mourn their suicides because of all the promise their young lives held. We think of older Australians who are ill, and perhaps this also prompts us to think about our own lives and what lies ahead.
Every suicide is devastating—another precious life lost—but the reality is that more than 50 per cent of people who commit suicide are between the ages of 25 and 50, and more than 80 per cent of that group are men. As a 46-year-old I fall into that age group. For me this is a rich time in my life, juggling my challenging family roles as husband to Sue and father of my kids, James, Campbell and Gabrielle, with my professional responsibilities as Family First senator and Leader of the Family First Party. Many men in this age group are in a similar situation. For many, it is the most productive and satisfying period of their lives; yet it is also a time when many end their lives. Those numbers shock me. Those men are my peers. They are the blokes I grew up with and went to school with—how very sad that they are more likely to die as a result of suicide than from a car accident.
Suicide is tragic enough, but there are also all the people who have made an unsuccessful suicide attempt. If they get hold of this book, there may not be so many who are unsuccessful. There are a range of government programs to reduce the road toll and to reduce the suicide rate, and Family First applauds them all; yet here we have a medical practitioner who has published a book on how to end your life rather than save it. One of the main factors experts highlight to reduce the suicide toll is restricting access to the means of suicide. If you want to reduce the suicide toll, you have to make it harder for people to commit suicide, not easier. That means making sure suicide promoters like Philip Nitschke do not have a chance to incite vulnerable people to suicide.
The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention says reasons for suicide include: a personal crisis often linked to a major life transition, such as losing a loved one or a job; a psychological disorder that can magnify such distress; and alcohol and substance abuse. There are many ways we can help people struggling with such issues. When we invest so much to provide such help, why do we also allow someone to promote suicide rather than solutions?
The good news is that suicide numbers have declined by 20 per cent since 1997, but there are still over 2,000 suicides a year and there is a long way to go. Sadly, a paper published last year showed that suicides on Dr Nitschke’s home turf in the Northern Territory had increased significantly over the past 20 years. Family First supports the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, but the federal government provides just over $10 million a year on suicide prevention projects, which is nowhere near enough. Compare that to the $45 million a year the government allocates to the Black Spot Program to fix high-rate road accident areas. In 2005 there were just over 1,600 deaths on our roads, 25 per cent fewer than by suicide in 2004, but just one road safety program gets four times the funding of suicide prevention. Until the federal government gets serious about addressing the problem of suicide, extremist fringe dwellers like Dr Nitschke will continue to put people in lethal danger.
Senators may have seen a newspaper report in last Saturday’s Age about the Swiss suicide group Dignitas. Dr Nitschke has taken a number of people to Switzerland, where the organisation has helped them commit suicide. However, it is reported that one of the staff from Dignitas has resigned because:
Clients, most of them foreigners, would arrive in Zurich, have a doctor confirm in the morning that they were ill but sound of mind ‘and by 4pm—
the same day—
they would be dead.
The former Dignitas worker asks:
In that time, how can you be sure they really wanted to die?’
She also expresses her concern that some clients were not terminally ill but suffered from depression. The head of Dignitas argues:
... ‘every person ... has the right to choose to die, even if they are not terminally ill’.
Is that the sort of Australia we want? Certainly it is the Australia that Dr Nitschke wants. We saw that with Nancy Crick and Lisette Nigot, both of whom were not terminally ill and died after having sought suicide advice from Dr Nitschke. Dr Nitschke should be deregistered for his dangerous and irresponsible behaviour. His book should not be allowed to threaten the lives of vulnerable Australians.
Rush to print death book
Adelaide Advertiser, February 11, 2007
AN ADELAIDE printing company is rushing to print and distribute new copies of suicide handbook The Peaceful Pill, in case it is banned.
Mr Ruddock's office would not comment on the book until the review is complete but, in his statement announcing the referral, he described the issue as "important". The move has led to a flurry of interest, after a national morning television program debated the issue.
"We're getting calls from bookshops all around Australia, because people believe the book is about to be banned," Dr Nitschke said from NZ yesterday.
A hearing was held by the Classification Review Board on Wednesday, when arguments were mounted by the Federal Government, the Right to Life Association and civil libertarians.
"The general theme of the Crown's case is this book encourages you to break the law, encourages you to go to Mexico or make your own nembutal. It doesn't," Dr Nitschke said.
"I would say it's a responsible guide to end-of-life options, but they (critics) like to describe it as a dangerous book."
Dr Nitschke says about 1000 copies of the book have been printed in Australia.
It has sold out in Adelaide.
The Peaceful Pill Handbook Refused Classification upon review
Classification Review Board
24 February 2007
The full 7-member board of the Classification Review Board has determined, in a unanimous decision, that the publication, The Peaceful Pill Handbook written by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart, is classified Refused Classification (RC).
Refused Classification (RC) means that the publication is immediately banned throughout Australia. It cannot be sold, displayed or imported into the country. A publication is refused classification if it exceeds the guidelines for the Category 1 – Restricted or Category 2 – Restricted classifications. Copies of the publication must be removed from shelves immediately.
The Classification Review Board determined that The Peaceful Pill Handbook warrants Refused Classification (RC) because it instructs in the crime of the manufacture of barbiturates. Further, a majority of the Review Board determined that it also instructs in the crimes of the possession and importation of barbiturates and in offences under Coroners legislation in all States and Territories.
“The handbook gives detailed, although flawed and incomplete, instruction in the manufacture of a barbiturate, which the book states is the closest substance to a ‘peaceful pill,’” said Classification Review Board Convenor, Maureen Shelley.
The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application from the Australian Attorney-General and an application from the Right to Life Association (NSW) to review the Category 1 – Restricted classification of The Peaceful Pill Handbook made by the Classification Board on 18 December 2006.
In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications.
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.
The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.
Classification Review Board
Review meeting: 7 February 2007
Decision meeting: 24 February 2007
23-33 MARY STREET, SURRY HILLS, NSW
Convenor: Ms Maureen Shelley
Deputy Convenor: The Hon Trevor Griffin
Members: Mrs Gillian Groom, Mr Anthony Hetrih, Mr Rob Shilkin, Ms Kathryn Smith, Ms Ann Stark
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the publication The Peaceful Pill Handbook, by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart, Category 1 – Restricted.
First applicant Right to Life Association (NSW) Inc (RTL) Represented by Mr Terry Tobin QC, Mr Damien Tudehope, Mr Chaing Lim Second applicant The Attorney-General, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP
Not represented, not present
ORIGINAL APPLICANT: Exit International US Ltd (Exit) Represented by Mr Simeon Beckett, Dr Philip Nitschke, Dr Fiona Stewart, Ms Carol Berry
INTERESTED PARTY: NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSW CCL)
Represented by Mr Stephen Blanks, The Hon Keppel Enderby QC, Ms Simone Orzepowski
Also present: (assisting the Classification Review Board), Australian Government Solicitor, Classification Operations Branch
DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION
1. The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) in a unanimous decision classified the publication The Peaceful Pill Handbook (the publication), by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart, ‘RC’ (Refused Classification) as it instructs in matters of crime relating to the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates), including the attempt to manufacture a prohibited drug (barbiturates); the storage of substances being used for the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates); and gives instructions enabling individuals to “take part in” the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates).
2. Further, the Review Board determined, in the majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crime relating to the possession of a prohibited drug (barbiturates) and importation of a prohibited substance and the importation of a border controlled drug (barbiturates).
3. Additionally, the Review Board determined, in the majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crimes under Coroners legislation in relation to reportable deaths.
2. Legislative provisions
The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs classification of publications and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that publications are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications 2005 (the Guidelines).
1) Relevantly, Publications 2 item 1(c) of the table in the Code provides that publications that “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence” are to be classified ‘RC’.
2) The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible.
3) Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on classification include:
a) The standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
b) The literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the publication or film; and
c) The general character of the publication or film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and
d) The persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.
4) Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines (Publications) determined under s.12 of the Act being:
i) the importance of context;
ii) the assessment of impact; and
iii) the six classifiable elements – adult themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.
1) On January 10, 2007, the Review Board received from Right to Life Association (NSW) Inc an application for review (dated January 11, 2007) of the Classification Board’s decision to classify The Peaceful Hill Handbook Category 1 Restricted. On the same day, an application was lodged by RTL with the Director for a full waiver of the application fee, which was granted on January 30, 2007.
2) On January 15, 2007, the Attorney-General lodged an undated application for review of the publication pursuant to s.42 (1) (a) of the Act stating that the application was lodged “in light of the perceived inconsistency” of the Australian Customs Service seizing copies of the publication as a prohibited import under Regulation 3AA(2)(c) of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and the classification of the publication Category 1 Restricted by the Classification Board on December 12, 2006.
3) The Review Board noted the Attorney-General’s reason for lodging his application but noted that the “perceived inconsistency” of legislation is not a relevant consideration for the Review Board in determining the classification of a publication.
4) Prior to the review meeting, all members of the Review Board read the publication. After reading the publication, the Convenor sought independent expert opinion from Dr Colin Duke and Associate Professor Janet Hardy. Copies of their responses and biographical information concerning the experts were circulated to all parties prior to the review meeting.
5) The Attorney-General advised in his undated letter received January 15, 2007 with the application for review that he would not make any submissions and would not be represented at the meeting.
6) The Convenor asked Review Board members at the commencement of the review meeting if there were any reasons why they would not be able to bring an impartial view to the application and review the matter on its merits.
7) Ms Stark advised the Review Board and the parties that she had in the past undertaken professional work in the area of palliative care. Ms Stark stated that there was no reason that would prevent her from considering the matter under review impartially. No submissions were made by any party on this issue. Review Board members all confirmed their ability to review the matter on its merits.
8) As a preliminary matter, the Review Board satisfied itself that it had received valid applications from both RTL and the Attorney-General. No objections were made by any party as to the validity of the applications.
9) Written and oral submissions were made by RTL, Exit and NSW CCL. No objections to the standing of Dr Duke or Associate Professor Hardy as independent experts were made by any party.
10) Following the review meeting, RTL, Exit and NSW CCL and the Convenor requested further opinion from Dr Duke. All responses were circulated to all parties and were read by Review Board members prior to the Review Board reconvening on February 24, 2007.
11) The Review Board reconvened on February 24, with Ms Smith and Mr Shilkin in attendance by teleconference, to consider the matter.
4. Evidence and other material taken into account
The Review Board had regard to the following:
i) The publication The Peaceful Pill Handbook;
ii) The applications for review from Right to Life Association (NSW) and the Attorney-General.
iii) Right to Life Association (NSW) – written submissions and oral submissions from Mr Terry Tobin QC;
iv) Exit International US Ltd – written and oral submissions, including oral submissions from Mr Beckett, Dr Nitschke and remarks from Dr Stewart;
v) New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties – written and oral submissions, including oral submissions from Mr Blanks and Mr Enderby, and a written submission from Mr Frank Moorhouse;
vi) Dr Colin Duke, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney, NSW – independent expert opinion;
vii) Associate Professor Janet Hardy, Director of Palliative Care, Mater Health Services, Queensland – independent expert opinion;
viii) Relevant provisions of the Act, Code and Guidelines;
ix) The Classification Board’s report;
x) Brown v Classification Review Board  145 ALR 464 (the Rabelais Case);
xi) Brown v Classification Review Board  154 ALR 67 (the Rabelais Case, Full Federal Court).
Legislation relating to suicide; border control
i) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) No 40 Division 5 Suicide
ii) Criminal Code Act 1899 (Queensland) Schedule 1: Criminal Code Sect 311 Aiding suicide
iii) Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) Sect 13A Criminal liability in relation to suicide
iv) Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tasmania) Sect 163 Aiding suicide
v) Criminal Code Act 1919 (WA) Schedule: Criminal Code Sect 288 Aiding suicide
vi) Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) No 40 Sect 16 Suicide etc not an offence; Sect 17 Suicide – aiding etc; Sect 18 Prevention of suicide
vii) Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) Schedule: Criminal Code Sect 168 Aiding suicide
viii) Criminal Code 1995 (Cwth) Division 474 Telecommunication offences
Sect 474.29A Using a carriage service for suicide related material
Sect 474.29B Possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining suicide related material for use through a carriage service
Sect 474.30 Defences for NRS employees and emergency call persons
Division 300 Preliminary
Sect 300.2 Definitions
Division 307 Import-export offences
Subdivision A Importation and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
Sect 307.2 Importation and exporting marketable quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
Sect 307.3 Importation and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
Subdivision B Possessing unlawfully imported border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
Division 314 Drugs, plants, precursors and quantities
Sect 314.4 Border controlled drugs
Legislation relating to drugs (barbiturates) and poisons (cyanide)
i) Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (Cwth) – Schedule 4 Drugs; Reg 5 Importation of drugs
ii) Customs Act 1901 (Cwth) – Sect 50; Sect 51; Sect 233(1) Smuggling and unlawful importation and exportation; specifically Sect 233 (1)(b); Sect 233 (1)(d); Sect 233 (1AB); Sect 233 (2)
iii) Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (Queensland) – Regulation 271 Prohibition on dispensing etc. regulated poisons; Appendix 7 Regulated Poisons
iv) Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (NSW)
v) Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2002 (NSW) – Reg 19 Certain Schedule 7 substances to be supplied and used only under an authority; Reg 100 Unauthorised manufacture and supply of drugs of addiction prohibited
vi) Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment Act 1989 (Cwth) - Sect 5; Sect 6; Sect 7A(2); Sect 7(1); Sect 11 Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances; Sect 80B
vii) Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) – Sect 6 Meaning of “taking part in”; Sect 24 Manufacture and production of prohibited drugs; Sect 26 Conspiring; Sect 27 Aiding, abetting etc commission of offence in New South Wales Schedule 1 Sections 3(1), 33(4), 44;
viii) Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) – Sect 13 ix) Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 1996 (SA) – Reg 12
x) Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2006 (Victoria) – Reg 4 Definitions, Part 5 Schedule 7 poisons Reg 65 Controls concerning listed regulated poisons
xi) Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Victoria) – Part V Sect 70 Drugs of Dependence Definitions; Sect 71A Possession of substance, material, documents or equipment for trafficking in a drug of dependence; Sect 71AC Trafficking of a drug of dependence; Part 1 Schedule Eleven, Drug Quantity of pure drug
xii) Poisons Act 1964 (WA) – Sect 23; Schedule 7
xiii) Poisons Act 1971 (Tasmania) – Sect 14(1); Sect 37; Schedule 7, Poisons List
xiv) Poisons and Drugs Act 1978 (ACT) – Dictionary; Sect 34, Sect 34(2)
xv) Poisons and Dangerous Drugs Act 2005 (NT) – Sect 6A, Sect 11 xvi) Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cwth) – Sect 52D; Schedule 7 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons
xvii) Misuse of Drugs Acts 1981 (WA) – Sect 5 Offences concerned with prohibited drugs and prohibited plants in relation to premises and utensils; Sect 6 Offences concerned with prohibited drugs generally; Sect 11 Presumption of intent to sell or supply.
xviii) Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Queensland) – Sect 4 Definitions; Sect 8 Producing dangerous drugs; Sect 8A Publishing or possessing instructions for producing dangerous drugs; Sect 9 Possessing dangerous drugs
xix) Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (Queensland) – Schedule 2 Dangerous drugs; Schedule 3 Specified quantities for particular dangerous drugs
Legislation relating to coroners and reportable deaths
xii) Coroners Act 1980 (NSW) – Sect 12A Obligation to report death; Sect 13(1)(a) and (c)
xiii) Coroners Act 1985 (Victoria) – Part 4 Reporting of Deaths; Sect 13 Obligation to report death
xiv) Coroners Act 2003 (SA) – Sect 28 Reporting of Deaths
xv) Coroners Act 1995 (Tasmania) – Part 4 Reporting of deaths; Sect 19 Obligation to report death
xvi) Coroners Act 2003 (Queensland) – Sect 7 Duty to report deaths xvii) Coroners Act 1996 (WA) – Part 3 Reporting of deaths; Sect 17 Obligation to report death; Sect 18 Information to the coroner
xviii) Coroners Act 1977 (ACT) – Sect 77(1)
xix) Coroners Act 1993 (NT) – Sect 12(2)
a) The Peaceful Pill Handbook states in the preface that it relates to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia and “is (emphasis in book) intended for seriously ill and suffering people for whom there is little hope that their quality of life will ever recover to a level that is satisfactory to them”.
b) The publication purports to “draw upon the latest scientific research on end of life choices to share a range of practical and useful strategies that everyone can understand. . . The over-arching paradigm of the book is to ensure the seriously ill and the elderly maintain their respect, dignity and sense of control.”
c) It provides “information” for “seriously ill or elderly people” so that they may make “carefully considered and fully informed decisions about their own life, and death.” The publication details eight methods, some in significant detail, of bringing about death.
6. Findings on material questions of fact
The Review Board found that the publication contains aspects worthy of mention under the classifiable elements of themes, violence and drug use:
1) Adult Themes – The publication provides detailed information on “end of life” options – that is of suicide and death. This information is forensically detailed. The impact of the detailed information is high. It includes photographs, labelled diagrams, and step-by-step processes to end life. Personal stories of suicide and the death of loved ones are included and the impact of these stories and of the detailed information regarding methods of bringing about death is high.
2) The Review Board found that the publication contains material relevant to the theme of ending one’s life and the ways by which that may be achieved. Central to the consideration of the issues is whether or not the publication offers instruction in matters of crime for the purposes of 1(c) of the Code.
3) While the publication details eight ways for bringing about death, those which raise questions about “matters of crime”, (whether the participant is a principal or an assistant) are the following:
a) Assisting in the clean-up of the scene of a suicide in order to give the impression that the causes of death were natural, with a view to avoiding the legal obligation to report the death to the coroner, either through the offices of a medical practitioner or the police, or by the person assisting in the clean-up;
b) The making of cyanide compounds;
c) The purchase overseas and unlawful importation into Australia of Nembutal, a barbiturate;
d) The possession of barbiturates;
e) The manufacture of barbiturates in Australia.
These issues are addressed in some detail below.
4) Violence – The publication details methods of injurious action which when carried out are fatal.
5) Stories of these actions and their results are detailed. Whilst the stories do not detail blood, gore or aggressive actions, the injurious methods detailed are invariably fatal and as such would in the dictionary-meaning of the word be considered as violent.
6) Such actions include the combined use of oven bags and helium to end life and details of the experiences of people who used this method. Also detailed is the manufacture of cyanide and the consequences of people inhaling gases or ingesting cyanide resulting from that manufacture.
7) The stories of death by cyanide poisoning include statements regarding “violent (and presumably painful) death”, “tetanic convulsions” or loss of consciousness and collapse and what the authors describe as “adverse symptoms”.
8) Whilst these same details in – say – a crime novel would be no more than mild to moderate, in the context of a book on end of life options for seriously ill people the impact of these stories is strong.
9) Drug use – The publication details methods of the manufacture, possession and importation of barbiturates. Personal stories relate how the drugs are purchased, imported and used resulting in death of individuals. It includes details of loss of consciousness of individuals and their resultant deaths, including stories of grief following such deaths. The impact of these stories is high given the context of a suicide handbook.
10) The Review Board noted the submission from RTL that the publication should also be refused classification under 1(a) of the Code. However, the Review Board found it unnecessary to consider this submission because of the view that the Review Board reached in relation to 1(c) of the Code.
Options for bringing about death
11) The publication details a number of methods of bringing about death. Some of these include methods that involve breaches of legislation.
12) The publication is 211 pages long and rates eight methods of “end of life” options or ways to bring about death. Seven of the rated methods are described in detail. These are carbon monoxide poisoning; hypoxic death using “Exit bags” (oven bags placed over the head) and drugs; morphine overdose; cyanide poisoning; overdose by propoxyphene (Doloxene); hypoxic death using the “Exit bag” and helium, and overdose using the drug pentobarbital (Nembutal). Death by hanging is not described or detailed but is rated as a common method of suicide. The publication also describes the most effective way to bring about one’s death using a gun (p201) but does not rate this method. 13) The rating system concerns “reliability” and “peacefulness” and the test is called the Exit RP test. To obtain a rating, scores are given for the primary requirements of reliability of method and peacefulness of death, and the secondary considerations of availability of the means, the complexity of the preparation, whether the method is undetectable at autopsy, the speed of death, the safety of the means to other persons present during a suicide, and the ability to store the means of bringing about the death. These methods are detailed below.
Death by “Exit bags”
14) A chapter is included on hypoxic death and the “Exit bag”. It details instructions on how to construct the bag including the materials necessary, the method of construction, diagrams of the stages of construction, photographs of what the bag looks like over the head of a store dummy, and case studies where people have successfully used this method to bring about death.
15) The “Exit bag” method is given a high rating due to the availability of the means and it being “undetectable”. The publication describes the method as “reliable, simple and does not involve difficult to obtain drugs or equipment”. The “Exit bag” and helium option is given 5/5 for “undetectability” – “if equipment is removed there is no way of establishing the method used – even at autopsy” (p70).
16) On p61 it states “If there is no evidence of an Exit bag or cylinder being used, the doctor will likely certify the death as natural, assuming that the person died from their underlying illness. The Exit bag is the only method that allows this possibility. If sleeping tablets are used these will be detected at autopsy, although they would probably be at levels unlikely to explain the death. All other approaches described in this book are detectable upon examination or autopsy”.
17) The “Exit bag” with drugs is given a 6/10 rating for reliability, 5/10 for peacefulness and 5/5 for safety. The “Exit bag” with helium is given 8/10 for reliability, 7/10 for peacefulness and 5/5 for being undetectable – on the presumption that another person will remove the bag and the helium canister before a doctor is called. It is also given 5/5 for speed, safety and storage. The only low rating it receives is for preparation – 1/5. Death by “Exit bag” and helium is the second-highest rated method of bringing about death.
Death by carbon monoxide poisoning
18) A chapter is devoted to death by carbon monoxide poisoning. It describes bringing about death by using a car and attaching a hose to the exhaust pipe bringing carbon monoxide fumes inside the car. Whilst the publication states: “This is not to say that the motor car cannot be used as source of carbon monoxide to effect a reliable death, but there are many problems associated with the method.” (p74).
19) The chapter details more reliable methods of building carbon monoxide generators showing photographs, detailed instructions, diagrams with labelled parts, graphs of rates of carbon monoxide production, the chemistry equations of carbon monoxide, where to obtain the materials and the benefits and risks of the method. The instructions are detailed, for example “Fifty mls of 85% formic acid is placed in the gravity feed chamber (‘B’). The control-valve is then adjusted to allow the acid to drip into the reaction chamber at a rate of 2 to 3 drops every 5 seconds (p78).
20) The development of the generators by Exit members is described as “a boost to the entire process” and the generators are described as “user friendly”. A case study of a “workshop” on the Gold Coast is included where ten generators were made by participants including: “Even a lady’s version made largely of Tupperware and kitchen implements was developed” (p77).
21) The publication states that while carbon monoxide poisoning can bring about a peaceful death there are “unresolved issues”. “Most interest in this method has come from those who reject the taking of drugs orally, for fear of vomiting, and who reject the use of helium because of the need for a plastic bag to be placed over one’s head. The COGen (detailed instructions for manufacture are given in the publication) addresses these concerns” (p87).
22) This method is rated 8/10 for reliability, 7/10 for peacefulness, 5/5 for speed and 4/5 for storage. Other ratings are between one and three out of five. It is the fourth-highest rated method of bringing about death.
23) The Review Board noted that suicide is not a crime and that suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning does not appear to breach any of the legislation considered by the Review Board. Nor does the discussion of death by carbon monoxide poisoning include any encouragement to “clear away” the scene to ensure the death is recorded as “natural”. The above details regarding this method go towards the impact of the theme of death by suicide and the context of the theme in the publication and the publication’s tone.
24) The Review Board noted that there is no distinction given in ratings between means that involve legal methods (such as carbon monoxide poisoning) and those that involve methods that breach legislation. The authors, whilst warning readers of some of the legal consequences, do not encourage the reader to use means to end their life that do not breach the law.
Death by morphine and heroin overdose
25) Two chapters are included giving information on death by the use of opiates. Some details of what the drugs’ containers and labels look like, where to obtain them, their effect and some benefits of the method are included. The publication states: “Morphine (or any of the other opiates) do not score particularly well on the RP Test” (p120). Further, “the use of the opiates as drugs of addiction and their place in the illegal narcotic trade can also make them occasionally very difficult to obtain” (p120). “There are better euthanasia options available” (p119).
26) The Review Board noted that whilst the information on these proscribed drugs was somewhat detailed, little encouragement was given for their use compared with the detail and encouragement given for other means, although it does state that a death by morphine is likely to be very peaceful as “Morphia is, after all, the goddess of dreams”(p118).
Death by propoxyphene (Doloxene) overdose
27) Doloxene is rated highly (third on the Exit RP Test scoring chart) and details are given in the form of case studies of people who have used this method effectively. Photographs show the brand names and what the drugs look like, the chapter gives details of the strength (100mg pink Doloxene Capsules) needed and a step-by-step process of how to extract the correct dosage, and take it with sleeping tablets. The publication states: “pull apart the 100 pink gelatin capsules”. Information is given that if the fingers become sore, then use scissors to cut each capsule and collect the contents in a glass. Then in a separate glass put the powder from sleeping tablets: “crush an entire packet of 25 Serapax tablets with a mortar and pestle”. Photographs show the capsules and an amount of white powder in a glass compared with a 20c coin.
28) One case study describes how a person decided to die at night. “By going to bed at our normal hour, we thought that I would be more likely to be protected legally since I could say that I had been asleep and had not known what had gone on. According to Exit, loved ones often say that they were asleep is (sic) the next room when death occurred. This is legally safe.” “My lovely wife fell asleep within 15 minutes of finishing the three drinks (the third being “her favourite Sherry”). My estimation is that she died during the night, approximately 6 hours later” (p129).
Death by cyanide poisoning
29) Detailed information is provided on death by cyanide poisoning (see later). These include what products to buy, where to obtain them, and information regarding the “reliability” of bringing about death. There are two pages of information on how to manufacture sodium cyanide using two different home-based methods.
30) This section has less detail than that on barbiturates, however, there was some level of instruction including two illustrations showing the “forge” and filtering of cyanide. The two methods described used readily-available chemicals, namely Prussian blue dye (iron III ferro cyanide) or swimming pool chlorine stabiliser (cyanuric acid). There is a recommendation for the second method to be used due to the dangers associated with the first method for the “inexperienced home chemist” (p94).
31) While exact amounts of the chemicals are not given, the section is written in a step-by-step process and refers to the illustrations in a similar way as a chemistry text. Additionally, the section gives details of where further information on the manufacture of cyanide may be found (p 95) similar to the references given in educational text books.
32) The publication states that the American Civil Liberties Union successfully took action against the California Department of Corrections arguing that the cyanide gas chamber used for executions violated the US Constitution because it was “cruel and unusual punishment” and “inflicted needless pain and suffering” (p90).
33) Details in the publication include information such as: “Contaminated items need to be disposed of carefully after traces of cyanide are removed. This is best achieved using chlorine bleach to oxidise any unwanted cyanide and to prevent it contaminating the equipment. The product also needs to be tested by analytic means to determine its concentration and purity. Quantitative tests are available and Exit offers such a service for supporters”.
34) Cyanide poisoning is rated 10/10 for reliability, 5/10 for peacefulness, 5/5 for speed and storage and with low scores for all other measures including 3/5 for safety.
Death by overdose of barbiturates – imported or manufactured
35) Two chapters provide detailed information on barbiturates. The first chapter of 30 pages (pp132-161 inclusive) provides details of how to purchase barbiturates and how to achieve death using barbiturates. It includes:
a) details of the veterinarian and human forms of the drug such as Anestesal, Sedal – Vet, Pentobarbital injectable, Sedalphorte, Barbithal and Sedalpharma (p148);
b) how members of Exit were able to purchase the drug in Mexico including how they used a variety of trade names in seeking to identify the drug they wanted until the store assistant recognised the product and how they showed a photograph of the product (such photographs are included in the publication) to assist with identification;
c) details of the questions asked including checking the use by date to ensure it hadn’t expired and that the seal was intact;
d) the appearance of the bottled forms sold in Mexico including photographs of a variety showing the proprietary labels in Spanish;
e) the location of where to purchase them – including the city;
f) the details of the best methods used to travel to the city to avoid notice by the authorities in Mexico and the US;
g) the area in the city where they are sold;
h) the appearance of the shops that sell them including photographs;
i) how Exit members have been able to get the drugs back into the US;
j) Page 154 states that people attempting to buy Nembutal should take the time to buy souvenirs so they appear to be a tourist thus avoiding suspicion and page 153 gives the approximate price of the drug;
k) three pages of information on “returning home”, “mailing Nembutal home” and the details of offences in NSW concerning the drug; including
(1) how Exit members have stored them in their suitcases for return to Australia;
(2) the lack of interest shown in them by sniffer dogs;
(3) whether they were detected by metal detectors;
(4) the amount of barbiturate in a single dose; and
(5) some (incorrect) details about penalties if discovered.
The manufacture of barbiturates
36) The second chapter of 16 pages (pp162-177 inclusive) on barbiturates follows the actions of a group of elderly people who decided to manufacture the product themselves. This chapter details how to manufacture barbiturates. It includes
a) detailed instructions on manufacture;
b) labelled diagrams;
c) photographs showing the equipment and how to correctly put it together (Fig 12.3, p174);
d) chemical formulations;
e) what materials to buy including equipment needed;
f) where to buy the ingredients and equipment;
g) lists of ingredients required;
h) techniques used;
i) special dangers of which to be aware;
j) the production of precursors to barbiturates;
k) the need for testing of the product; and
l) a photograph of a group of smiling elderly people holding a beaker captioned “Fig 12.5 The first synthesised barbiturate” (p177).
37) This chapter is the case study of the Peanut Project. It relates detailed descriptions of the chemicals and procedures required in the manufacture of the barbiturate. Illustrations on pages 168, 171, 173, 174 and 175 show the chemical structure of the barbiturate and the required set-up of equipment to create barbiturates.
38) Exact measures of the chemicals needed to manufacture barbiturates are not given. However expert testimony by Dr Duke stated that “an undergraduate science student with practical training in synthetic organic chemistry and a good working knowledge of stoichiometry” would have the level of proficiency to follow the instructions to manufacture barbiturates, although such barbiturates may be contaminated by other substances.
39) The Peanut Project (chapter 12) is more than the retelling of how a group of elderly people come together to manufacture their own “Peaceful Pill”. The majority of the case study is similar to chemistry texts and includes warnings like “CAUTION: Sodium must be handled with great care… with tongs or tweezers” (p172).
40) The publication referred to detailed chemistry texts that were readily available from public libraries, which contained much of the missing information and on p172 the narrative refers readers to “Standard organic chemistry texts (eg. Solomons & Fryhle, 2004)” for further information”. Further, as detailed below in paragraphs 94 to 104, the publication contains numerous “endorsements” of barbiturates/Nembutal as being the best suicide method.
Removing evidence of suicide, suicide recorded as “natural causes”
41) Throughout the publication are ratings and discussion of the cause of death being undetectable. A death being “undetectable” is given a rating under all methods. On page 203 a chart of the methods detailed provides a score for “undetectability” (except for death by gun, which is detailed on page 201 and is not given any ratings). The chart includes death by hanging and gives ratings for this method, although it is not detailed in the publication. The highest rating of 5/5 is given for death by “Exit bag” and helium.
42) The Convenor asked Dr Nitschke during the review meeting if the reason the method was undetectable was because another person would remove the bag and helium canister after a person’s death. Dr Nitschke confirmed that this was the case.
43) Page 24 states: “any person who chooses to be involved in the death of another – however tangentially and for whatever reasons – needs to be very careful indeed. This is especially true when friends and family are involved and emotions may cloud one’s judgement.”
44) Page 38 states: “Methods that leave no obvious trace are strongly preferred. In reality, this might mean that an attending physician will be more likely to assume that the death has been caused by a known underlying disease. In this situation, the question of suicide does not arise.”
45) Page 51 states: “Helium has no taste or smell and quickly dissipates after death. There is no test that can reveal its use.”
46) Page 52 includes details of where to purchase helium kits. It states a person: “purchased the kit outright, paid cash and left no paper trail.”
47) Page 59 relates a case study of a couple purchasing a balloon kit including a disposable helium canister. It states: “At our local shop, we took the advice of other Exit supporters, telling the sales staff that we wanted the canister on stand-by for when the grandchildren visited at weekends and school holidays.”
48) Page 61 states: “The helium method produces no changes in the body that can be seen or found on inspection, or discovered at autopsy. If there is no evidence of an Exit bag or cylinder being used, the doctor will likely certify the death as natural, assuming that the person died from their underlying illness.”
49) Page 70 in a section headed “Undetectability” states: “If equipment is removed there is no way of establishing the method used – even at autopsy.”
50) Page 96, after discussing the preference for oral drugs, states: “The lack of any necessary bedside equipment also means that the death will often be thought of as one from ‘natural causes’ ”.
51) Page 106 discusses dying in the evening so that intervention by others does not prevent the suicide. It states that when the unconscious person does not die: “this can present a significant problem to the person either tasked with, or who accidentally, finds them. On discovery, a person must do something to protect themselves. Even if they are aware of the unconscious person’s plan.”
52) Page 106 states: “It would not be acceptable, for example, to claim in the morning that you noticed that your friend or relation was unconscious but you chose to do nothing about it. During the night a person can argue that they had been asleep and hadn’t noticed.”
53) Page 130 states: “Given that a significant number of Doloxene-based suicides are likely to be reported as deaths from ‘natural causes’ (and thus missed), the use of this drug has probably been under-reported.”
54) Page 142, after discussing the green-dyed form of pentobarbital, states: “If drunk it can stain the lips and tongue. With such staining it is unlikely that an attending doctor will cite natural causes on the death certificate!”
55) Page 190 questions: “is anyone responsible for clearing away equipment from the death scene”.
56) Page 191 states: “If the death looks natural, the doctor can certify death and sign the death certificate. The person’s underlying disease is usually cited as the cause of death. There will be no red tape. The body will be released immediately, and funeral arrangements can be made.”
57) This section then details what happens when the doctor does not consider a death to be ‘natural’ including calling the coroner’s office and the police being involved. The book states: “The first option (the death being recorded as natural) is the usual one sought”, rather than what is outlined in this section.
58) It states: “if the person, friends and/or family ensure that any evidence of suicide is removed from the scene, this will be the most likely result”. A majority of the Review Board concluded that the “desired result” is that the death will be recorded as natural and will not be reported to the coroner and police.
59) The publication states: “The second option (reporting the death) presents a greater risk to the family and friends of the person who has died. Although suicide is not a crime, police will attend the death scene to ensure that no laws have been broken”.
60) Page 192 states: “There are several steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood that the death will be seen as ‘natural’.” Two pages detail what these steps are including:
i) removal of equipment including the Exit bag or empty drug packets;
ii) rinsing the glass after the lethal drug has been consumed;
iii) removal of the bag from the person’s head;
iv) discreet disposal of the helium canister, tubing and “other tell tale signs”; and
v) leaving no evidence of equipment that could have been used in the suicide.
61) Page 193 states:
“It is a crime to interfere with the ‘circumstances of a death.’ However, such actions taken after a suicide do not constitute a serious infringement of the law. If authorities do discover that cleaning up has taken place, the family or friends often explain their actions by saying that they were protecting the family’s reputation. They say it would be a blemish on the family if the suicide of a family member were ever to be made public. There is little likelihood that the act of ‘cleaning away’, if carried out for this reason, will attract anything more than a legal slap on the wrist.”
62) Page 193 states:
“there is a large legal distinction between removing a plastic bag after use and letting the doctor assume it was a natural death, and helping someone put a plastic Exit Bag on their head. The latter is clearly assisting suicide and may well attract a savage penalty if discovered.”
63) Page 194 discusses what action could be taken should suicide still be suspected.
“Exit advises people to write a note ‘just in case’. A good suicide note will state that the person’s death was entirely caused by their own actions and that no one else was involved. The note should be signed and dated by the person who takes their life.”
64) Page 194 also sets out what can be done to ensure that a doctor will sign the death certificate:
“…call your doctor for a visit prior to the planned death and complain, perhaps of some imagined developing fever and breathlessness. When this doctor is called back some days later, they are often quick to assume a natural death involving pneumonia.”
65) Page 195 discusses what is recorded on the death certificate and how many people do not wish suicide to be the reason recorded:
“Clearly a method of death that leaves no obvious signs needs to be chosen.” “A method that leaves no trace, even at autopsy, is the Exit bag with helium. But then, for the death to be recorded as natural, the bag and the helium canister would need to be removed. It can be useful if a family member of friend can ‘discover’ the body in the morning. This person will then be in a position to call the family doctor and remind the doctor of the underlying illness. One can claim that everyone in the house was asleep during the evening when the death took place.”
66) Page 196 discusses autopsies:
“At autopsy, the existence of drugs in the body will be discovered. If the drug is uncommon or difficult to obtain, questions may be asked about whether or not assistance was provided in obtaining, preparing or administering the substance.”
7. Reasons for the decision
Instruction in matters of crime
67) The Review Board is required to consider the Code and specifically in this context the Code as it applies to publications. Item 1(c) states that publications “that (c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence” are to be refused classification.
68) In determining whether the publication instructs in matters of crime, the Review Board reviewed very closely the Rabelais Case for guidance on the meaning of “instruct in matters of crime”. It is the authoritative Federal Court case on this aspect of the Code.
69) The Review Board noted Justice French’s statement in the Rabelais Case (154 ALR 67 at 81) that the provision of information on matters of crime will constitute instruction if “it appears from the content and context of the article, objectively assessed, as purposive, the relevant purpose being to encourage and equip people with the information to commit crimes.”
70) French J stated (in the Rabelais Case, Full Court) that “in considering whether a publication instructs in matters of crime in the purposive sense, the assessment is objective. The existence of words in the publication which, literally read, constitute such instruction will not necessarily bring the publication within the Code. It must be read as a whole and in context.” Accordingly, French J considered that the word “instruct” does not have to be construed in a way that excludes all elements of promotion or incitement.
71) Heerey J agreed with French J and stated that instructs “is to be read as connoting (i) the imparting or teaching of knowledge, skills and techniques as to how crime may be committed, and also (ii) some element of encouraging or exhorting the commission of crime.” His Honour also stated “for the reasons already mentioned, one is not concerned with the actual effect of the publication. Still less is the actual intent of the author or publisher relevant.” Based on the Federal Court and Full Federal Court Rabelais decisions, the Review Board considered it necessary to determine that the publication:
a) provided knowledge, skills and techniques for the commission of a crime; and
b) had, as its objective purpose, the encouragement of a particular crime. A publication can have the objective purpose of “encouraging” the commission of a crime if it has the objective purpose of increasing the disposition to commit a particular crime in someone who may already be minded to commit that crime. Put another way, to provide “encouragement” in the requisite sense, the publication does not have to have as its purpose the exhortation of an individual who is not minded to suicide, to suicide. It suffices if its objective purpose is to encourage a reader that is already minded to suicide, to undertake a particular (criminal) act.
72) The Review Board noted that the word “handbook” means a manual, instruction manual, instruction book or guide. The publication is structured in similar fashion to a conventional handbook – with broad descriptions and basic skills covered initially and with increasing specificity as the chapters increasingly focus on the suitability of barbiturates as the apparently ultimate “Peaceful Pill”. The final chapters are detailed in the coverage of the issues associated with the use of a Peaceful Pill. As with conventional handbooks, tables for summary and comparison are provided at the end.
73) The meaning of “instruct” is of relevance – to furnish with knowledge, especially by a systematic method, to teach, train or educate. The use of case studies to provide information through the analysis of the experiences of particular individuals is a common method of instruction in health and allied areas – in the academic and professional development sphere but more particularly in community health education. Thus to provide a gradually focused argument (by methods described above) for the use of Nembutal (a barbiturate) and then provide a series of case studies exploring satisfactory solutions of the dilemma of how to obtain a prohibited substance provides a model of instruction based on sound educative principles.
74) As well as the content of specific chapters and paragraphs it is necessary to view the “handbook” as a whole in terms of the issue of “instruct”. Chapters 5 through 10, with the exception of Chapter 7 (Cyanide), provide information regarding methods of taking one’s life that do not breach the law, although most chapters include information on “clearing away” evidence of suicide. In relation to the overall development of the publication’s argument, it is the evaluative table at the end of each chapter, repeated in summary form at p203, which provides an indication of a progression of arguments from least to most desirable.
75) Thus when the reader reaches Chapter 11 it is with a ready-prepared cognitive set to see this option as more desirable than the preceding arguments. Such a developed cognitive context is of relevance in considering the next two chapters, which canvass illegal methods of possessing, importing and manufacturing barbiturates. The cautions regarding illegal activity are thus weakened because of the advance of an argument of desirability about this option contained in the pages of the chapters and also in the focused argument, which led up to them.
76) The publication’s overall tone is consistent with its title of “handbook”. It provides a rationale targeted to the desirability of a particular outcome, a review of less desirable strategies, accompanied by an evaluation against stated criteria and then detailed information, couched in accepted educational forms, in the obtaining – through various means – of a prohibited substance. In form and argument this goes beyond the stated intent to merely provide information.
77) In other words, the publication has a clear objective purpose of presenting particular (criminal) actions as desirable. That a reader with no suicidal tendencies may not be persuaded to undertake these acts is not relevant. Those readers who are looking for end-of-life options are instructed in, and given objective encouragement to consider, particular actions, some or all of which may involve the commission of a crime. Specifically, the publication provides a targeted program of instruction, informing in, and encouraging of the outcome described including possessing, importing and manufacturing barbiturates, and preventing suicide, a reportable death, being reported to the coroner.
Does instruction need to be complete instruction?
78) The Review Board noted from the Rabelais Case, the Full Court quoting Justice Merkel, that the instruction “must go beyond the mere provision of information” and that the information provided must not be so general or obvious that “no real instruction has been given”.
79) The Review Board noted that in the opinion of Associate Professor Hardy the publication provided sufficient instructions for people to be able to commit suicide if they followed the methods outlined.
80) The Review Board noted Dr Duke’s opinion that the publication provided sufficient – although flawed – instruction for an undergraduate chemistry student to be able to produce barbiturates, although in a contaminated form, if they followed the methods given.
81) Exit submitted that “the book alone does not provide sufficient in formation (sic) to equip a reader with information to allow them to commit a crime, namely the production of a prohibited substance.” Further, Exit submitted that “The CRB must reach its decision based on the book alone and not on the combined effect of the book and other sources of information or experience.”
82) Although it may be that the group referred to in the Peanut Project case study had more information than is provided in the publication, the Review Board unanimously found as a matter of fact that the instructions and encouragement that it does provide are sufficient to enable the likely audience of the publication to:
a) “take part in” the manufacture of prohibited drugs;
b) collect and store the required substances and equipment for the manufacture of prohibited drugs;
c) manufacture the prohibited drugs, albeit that the resulting compound may be imperfect; and
d) attempt to manufacture the prohibited drugs, albeit that the instructions are not perfect and complete.
83) Similarly, a majority found that the publication provides sufficiently detailed information and encouragement for individuals to “clean away” the evidence of suicide so as to prevent a reportable death being reported to the coroner, albeit that the instructions are not perfect and complete.
84) Further, a majority found that the publication provides sufficiently detailed information and encouragement for individuals to participate in the importation of prohibited and border-controlled drugs into Australia, albeit that the instructions are not perfect and complete.
Likely audience for publication
85) In considering the classification of a publication, the Review Board can consider under s.11 (d) of the Act “the persons or class of person to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.”
86) Both Exit and NSW CCL submitted that the intended audience for the publication was those set out in the publication “seriously ill and suffering people” and the elderly. Dr Nitschke and Dr Stewart stated during the review meeting that they request the date of birth of people applying online to purchase the publication to ensure the Category 1 – Restricted classification is met.
87) In response to questions by the Deputy Convenor Dr Nitschke and Dr Stewart acknowledged that they do not undertake any verification of a person’s date of birth and that some of the applicants objected to being asked for this information. They said that most sales of the publication were through their workshops on euthanasia and that most people who attend these are elderly or seriously and terminally ill. They said some young people, who they defined as 40 year olds, attend their workshops but no teenagers or people in their 20s or 30s do so.
88) Dr Nitschke and Dr Stewart stated that the publication could be purchased online through Exit, at Dymocks, a mainstream chain of book stores, and at independent outlets such as Gleebooks in Glebe, a suburb of Sydney. Dr Nitschke and Dr Stewart had no knowledge of how these outlets restricted the sale of the publications to adults.
89) The Review Board noted the authors’ statements in the publication that of the people who produced the barbiturates in the case study “none were (sic) professional chemists although several had studied chemistry at university many years ago”, that the average age of the participants “was 80 years” and that “several who participated were seriously ill”. They are described in the publication as “elderly folk”.
90) The availability of the book online, in chain bookstores and independent bookshops ensured that it had a wide distribution. The re-order form in the back of the publication does not include a question regarding age, although credit card details are required. Based on the above information the Review Board determined that the likely audience for the book was anyone over the age of 18 who wished to purchase it. The Review Board noted the submission of RTL that some younger adults who were suicidal may purchase the book and use it to commit suicide. Indeed, the introduction of the book acknowledges this possibility. However, misuse of the publication is not relevant to the Review Board’s determination of whether the publication instructs in matters of crime under Item 1(c) of the Code.
91) The Review Board noted Exit’s submission that the book is “predominantly a medical publication aimed at providing information to its target audience in a readily understandable way”.
92) However, the Review Board found that a close examination of the text shows that the intended audience as well as the likely audience is more than people seeking a legal means to end their life.
93) The publication is written to provide instruction on methods of ending life that breach a number of pieces of legislation in regard to prohibited substances, proscribed drugs and border controlled drugs. Further, the publication instructs in removing evidence of suicide to ensure that a reportable death will not be so reported.
Does the publication instruct in matters of crime (barbiturates)?
Encouragement for the possession and use of barbiturates
94) Page 132 states: “The barbiturate Nembutal is the drug that comes closest to the concept of the Peaceful Pill. Exit defines the ‘Peaceful Pill’ as a pill, tablet or mixture that can be taken orally and that is guaranteed to provide a peaceful, dignified death at a time of one’s choosing.”
95) Page 32 of the publication has a paragraph headed “The Best Peaceful Pill”. It states “Fifty years on and it is pentobarbital (Nembutal) that is favoured as an ideal Peaceful Pill.” Later it states: “Fifty years ago, Nembutal was a widely prescribed drug, recommended even to help babies sleep, and to calm aching teeth (See Fig 11.1, p133).” Page 133, in the chapter about barbiturates, depicts an advertisement from the 1950s of Nembutal stating that the drug is suitable for children.
96) Page 32 states that Nembutal “was removed from the Australian prescribing schedule in 1998”. It states that “these active barbiturate salts have been used medically for many years, mainly as sedatives or sleeping tablets.” “The fact that in overdose they caused death, either accidentally or deliberately, and the availability of newer, safer sleeping drugs has led to their decline” (p32). 97) Page 144 relates the story of Nancy Crick who suicided after “Nancy’s Nembutal arrived anonymously in the mail at her Queensland home. Nancy was truly one of the lucky ones.” It further states on p145, after detailing how people travel to other countries to obtain Nembutal that “people draw great comfort from knowing that they are back in control and have the option of a peaceful death.”
98) Page 145 has an authors’ “note” stating that the authors are “not advocating or inciting readers to break any laws in Australia, Mexico or the US”. Their purpose, they state, is to “seek to provide accurate information so that those contemplating such action are in a better position to judge whether this is an appropriate option for them. It is impossible to safely make such a decision without access to the best information.”
99) Page 155 has another authors’ “note”, which states in part: “Exit knows of no one who has had their Nembutal confiscated by customs at US-Mexico borders, or on return to Australia.”
100) Page 156 states: “A first offence is most likely to attract a fine only”, “…if the person who is bringing the drug in can prove that he/she does not intend to sell the drug, then no offence is committed” and “If a person is importing a single 6 gram bottle of Nembutal for their our own use, it is unclear what, if any, crime is committed”.
101) Page 160 states: “The barbiturate pentobarbital (Nembutal) is the best euthanasia drug and comes closest to the concept of the Peaceful Pill. In countries where it is lawful to help someone to die and any drug or substance could be used, the choice is always Nembutal.” Later on that page it states: “Nembutal can be obtained from overseas and it is in Mexico where it is most accessible as the first hand accounts that have been provided to Exit illustrate. But not everyone can afford a trip overseas. And not everyone will want to openly break the law in the process. An alternative approach is for people to make their own drug. This is the strategy behind the Peanut Project described in the next chapter.”
102) Apart from the 46 pages in the two specific chapters on barbiturates, the publication includes reference to the preference for barbiturates as a method of bringing about death in the general discussion of the closest option to the Peaceful Pill on page 32 and its use by doctors in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal on pages 181, 184 and 188.
103) Page 108 states: “Nembutal is extremely stable and known to be effective well past its expiry date. However, if the particular sample of the drug is old, an assay should be carried out to give confidence and avoid risk. An assay service for the barbiturates has been developed by Exit.”
104) Throughout the publication barbiturates are referred to as the best “Peaceful Pill”. See pages 32, 132, 160 and page 137 where barbiturates are described as the “drug of choice” in countries where voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal. Barbiturates score the highest rating in the Exit RP Test table at 88% on page 203.
Instruction in manufacture of barbiturates
105) Manufacturing barbiturates is illegal under State criminal laws, listed above.
106) Dr Duke provided expert advice to the Review Board on the technical issues relating to the potential for the information in the chapter, if adopted by a person wishing to make a barbiturate, to result in the successful manufacture of that substance. His advice was that:
“The chapter provides enough information for someone to manufacture the drugs mentioned.”
107) He does not say that everyone could use the instructions but that some practical training in synthetic organic chemistry and “a good working knowledge of stoichiometry” would suffice. Stoichiometry is the accounting or mathematics behind chemistry. The inclusion of the chemical formulae for barbiturates allows a person with this knowledge to estimate the quantities of ingredients required.
108) It is not necessary for the ages and abilities and experience of those who may seek to use the information to be taken into account by the Review Board when determining whether or not the material falls within the description of “instruction in matters of crime”. The Review Board is of the view that it does so fall. Further, by positioning and describing Nembutal, throughout the publication as such a favourable and painless option for suicide (as described in 94 to 104 above), the publication encourages those who may be minded to commit suicide to pursue this (criminal) option.
Importing barbiturates into Australia illegally
109) Bringing a barbiturate such as Nembutal into Australia is an offence under Commonwealth law. It is likely that a person bringing a small quantity of Nembutal (a border controlled drug) to Australia for use in ending their life would be committing an offence under s.233(1)(b) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cwth) and under s.233(1)(d) regarding prohibited imports. A person may commit an offence under s.233(1)(d) whether or not they actually import the goods. Importation of a barbiturate may also breach sections of the Criminal Code.
110) The publication, in chapter 11, gives instruction on how to identify and purchase Nembutal or equivalent in a country such as Mexico and bring it back to Australia via the US hidden in one’s luggage. There is a continuum of behaviour set out in the book, which culminates in a crime in Australia. While the preparation and the acquisition overseas of barbiturates are not crimes in Australia, the “importation” into Australia is.
111) The chapter, in its introduction (page 132), states that:
“The barbiturate Nembutal is the drug that comes closest to the concept of the Peaceful Pill”.
112) At page 156 encouragement is offered notwithstanding a declaration that the authors and Exit International do not encourage breaking the law: “At Exit International we know of no one who has declared their Nembutal and of no one who has had their Nembutal confiscated in customs. We do not encourage readers of this book, however, to break the law in this regard. The provision of this information is so informed decisions can be made.”
113) The detail about purchasing and importing Nembutal described above is sufficient, in the view of the Review Board, to lead to the conclusion that the chapter falls within the description of “instruction in matters of crime”. Further, by positioning and describing Nembutal, throughout the publication as such a favourable and painless option for suicide (as described in paragraphs 94 to 104 above), the publication encourages those who may be minded to suicide to engage in criminal activity in preparation to committing suicide.
114) The Review Board noted Exit’s submission that “there is no purposive intent (in the publication) to impel persons towards committing any crime.” However the Review Board noted that in the Rabelais Case the Full Court found that the actual intent of the author was not relevant. Rather, as discussed above, the content and context of the book must be objectively assessed.
115) The Review Board found unanimously that the favourable commentary of Nembutal and barbiturates throughout the publication provided sufficient promotion of barbiturates and their manufacture to constitute “encouragement” in the sense required by Rabelais.
116) Further, the Review Board determined in the majority that the detail regarding the possession, importation, storage, attempt to manufacture and manufacture of barbiturates – as detailed in the paragraphs above – constituted sufficient instruction and encouragement for the publication to instruct in matters of crime.
Importation of prohibited drugs into Australia – Minority view
117) It was the minority view that the information given in the publication in regard to illegally bringing into Australia the barbiturate pentobarbital (Nembutal) did not “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence” as stated in item 1(c) of the publications table of the Code.
118) In Chapter 11 Drug options-Nembutal the authors provide “one of the typical first hand testimonials that has been provided to us”. The story tells of how two women travelled to “. . . Mexico where Nembutal is readily available”, purchased Nembutal from a veterinary supply shop and returned to Australia with it in their luggage, undeclared to Customs.
119) This anecdotal account of bringing into Australia an illegal drug is superficial, states the obvious, and does not instruct in how to avoid detection. It very simply states “As for the sniffer dog? He showed no interest in us at all”. They do not say why or how they avoided the interest of the sniffer dog. This statement is prefaced by “Upon entering customs and immigration in Sydney we were worried about the penalties if we were caught bringing the drug into Australia.” This is a statement of discouragement.
120) Similarly they state “We simply packed our Nembutal in the middle of our luggage.” In the minority view this is in no way instruction, it does not instruct in how to avoid detection. This is prefaced by: “We were very nervous going through immigration,” a further statement of discouragement, “... but drew comfort knowing that we did not look like drug couriers.” There is no detail to tell readers why they did not look like drug couriers or what the profile of drug couriers is, so one can avoid it. These statements are of such innocence they do not impart any knowledge to the reader.
121) Similarly the account of Richard’s Story gives no instruction: “At each port, the customs and immigration staff were nothing but pleasant to us. After all, we were hardly your typical drug mules.” Again, there is no detail or information about how not to be detected.
122) Further, the Authors’ Note at the end of the chapter outlines the crime committed and the related penalty. The authors state, “We do not encourage readers of this book, however, to break the law in this regard.”
123) Given “the word ‘instruct’ in the Code should be read as connoting (a) the imparting or teaching of knowledge, skills and techniques as to how crime may be committed; and (b) some element of encouraging or exhorting the commission of crime” as in the Rabelais Case it is the view of the minority that there was no such encouragement, and therefore the information in this chapter does not “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence”.
Coroners legislation and reportable deaths
Does the publication instruct in non-reporting of suicide?
124) Page 61 provides an early indication of the desirability of non-discovery of the cause of death – a theme which becomes stronger as the publication develops its arguments. This idea is developed early in the publication and the reader is gradually shaped to the notion that this is a desirable outcome. As may be seen later, involvement of others in the deception of a medical practitioner with the aim of subverting a report to the coroner relates to matters of crime in all states.
125) In each State and Territory it is an offence not to report certain deaths to the Coroner. Suicide is a reportable death. The Review Board noted that in the ACT and NSW a person must have reasonable grounds to believe that the death or suspected death is a reportable death to commit such an offence. The attending doctor who certifies the death usually reports the death or if the police are called they may do so. However, if there is no evidence of suicide (that is, if the scene has been “cleaned up”), the doctor may be unlikely to report the death as a suicide but record it as a death from natural causes. If the police are not called then it is unlikely that the death will be reported to the coroner. If that occurs, then the person who is aware that the death was a suicide is obliged by law to report the death to the coroner. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
126) The publication gives detailed and cogent reasons as to why a death should be recorded as being from natural causes and, as a result, not be reported to the coroner.
127) The publication devotes Chapter 14 to After it’s All Over on the subject “clearing away”. This has particular relevance to Chapter 5 ‘Hypoxic Death and the Exit Bag’ where a particular event is related. On page 55 the following appears:
“To hide the true cause of her death, I removed all of the equipment used and concealed any evidence of her suicide. I hoped that the doctor would assume it was a consequence of her cardiac disease.”
128) There is considerable detail in Chapter14 about what is required to clean up a scene of a suicide and the consequences of not doing so. At page 193, the authors write:
“It is a crime to interfere with the ‘circumstances of a death’. However, such actions taken after a suicide do not constitute a serious infringement of the law.”
129) The latter observation is a matter of opinion and is not necessarily correct, but the Review Board did not consider it necessary to examine whether, apart from the Coroners legislation, it was a crime to interfere with the circumstances of death.
130) While the authors seek to ensure that there is advice not to break the law and they include disclaimers to that end, there is an all-pervading impression throughout the publication that the authors are relating the incidents and events with support and/or approval. For example, at page 195, the following appears:
“Nevertheless, the fact remains, if a person about to die from a terminal disease, puts an end to their suffering, the death will be recorded as ‘suicide’. If that person does not want ‘suicide’ recorded on the death certificate, they need to take steps to disguise the truth.”
131) Although disclaimers appear, they are not conclusive in seeking to avoid the consequences of what has been written, as they are contradicted by the tenor of the publication. The detail in relation to cleaning up after a suicide and the tenor of the chapter and the publication are sufficient for the Review Board to conclude that there is instruction in matters of crime in relation to Coroners legislation.
132) The publication outlines the benefits of clearing away evidence of suicide so as to prevent the death being recorded by the doctor as suicide and so that the police are not called. This action is directed at preventing the death being reported to the coroner. The publication lists the benefits of taking such action: The family gain immediate possession of the body, there is no red tape, there is no embarrassment over suicide being recorded on the death certificate, and there is no police involvement and therefore less risk to family members being accused of assisting in the suicide.
133) The first 13 chapters of the book target the audience described in Chapter 1 (the seriously ill and dying who want “end of life” options). However, in the issues it addresses, Chapter 14 widens the target audience to those who might assist in the aftermath of a suicide. It then systematically canvasses relevant issues designed to achieve a particular outcome – the recording of a “natural death” cause and the avoidance of referral to a coroner.
134) In overview, this chapter has a specific theme, provides a rationale and then detailed instruction in specific activities designed to a particular end. Evaluation of the techniques employed is then provided as well as cautions regarding strategic actions, which may assist the desired outcome. Again, this is a model of instruction commonly utilised in community health education and from that perspective, clearly falls into the category of “instruct”.
Does the publication encourage non-reporting of suicide?
135) The Review Board found, in the majority, that the favourable commentary in regard to removing evidence of suicide, the steps necessary to deceive the attending doctor and the comprehensive and repeated listing of the benefits of avoiding autopsy and having a death recorded as “natural” constituted encouragement with the aim of preventing a death being reported to the coroner.
136) Further, the Review Board notes that s.12A of the Coroners Act (NSW) refers to a “person (who) having reasonable grounds to believe that a death” “has not been reported” to the coroner (that person) “must report the death to a police office or a coroner”.
137) The Review Board determined that any reader of this publication would have reasonable grounds to believe that a suicide would be a death that should be reported to the coroner.
138) Further, such a reader would also have reasonable grounds to believe that – having removed evidence of suicide so that the death is recorded as being by “natural causes” by the doctor – the usual process of the doctor or police reporting the death to the coroner would not occur.
139) The Review Board notes that the publication does not overtly tell the reader to not report a death to the coroner. However, it was the Review Board’s determination that there was sufficient detailed information, reasoning and encouragement NOT to do so that the purpose of this instruction – when objectively assessed – was to encourage deception of the authorities to prevent reportable deaths (suicides) being reported to the coroner.
140) The Review Board determined in the majority that there was sufficient instruction, encouragement and promotion of removing evidence of suicide so as to prevent the reporting of a reportable death (suicide) to the coroner and accordingly would warrant an ‘RC’ (Refused Classification).
Coroners legislation and reportable deaths – Minority view
141) It was the minority view that the information in Chapter 14, After it’s All Over does not “promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence” as stated in item 1 (c) of the publications table of the Code.
142) The authors do outline “...several steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood that the death will be seen as ‘natural’ ’’. (p192) The information given in this chapter outlines the various courses taken if a person appears to have died from natural causes, or if it is evident that the person has suicided. It outlines what may happen in each scenario. It does tell the reader what may be the likely consequences of certain actions they take in regard to a person’s death and how it may appear.
143) It does not instruct the reader that s.12A of the Coroners Act 1980 (NSW) and similar legislation in other States and Territories in Australia, provides that:
(1) Any person who:
(a) has reasonable grounds to believe that a death or suspected death would be examinable by a coroner under section 13, 13A or 13B; and
(b) has reasonable grounds to believe that the death or suspected death has not been reported in accordance with this subsection must report the death or suspected death to a police office, or to a coroner or assistant coroner, as soon as possible after becoming aware of these grounds.
144) While a suicide is a death that is examinable by a coroner under s.13 of the Coroners Act 1980, and other similar legislation, it is the minority opinion that the average reasonable person in the community may not be aware that this is the case, given that suicide itself does not breach legislation.
145) It is the minority view that the publication does not instruct the reader not to report a suicide. Rather, the reader is informed “if…the doctor suspects that the death is not natural, they will certify the death, but may not sign the death certificate. In this case the doctor will call the coroner’s office and the police will be involved. Those close to the deceased may be required to be interviewed by the police about their relationship with the deceased and about their possible role in the person’s death.”
146) From reading this chapter it may appear to the reader that it is up to the doctor or police to decide if the death is reportable or not. While ignorance of the law may be no excuse, it may be that a key element of the offence under Coroners legislation in some jurisdictions is knowledge that a particular death is reportable. The reader is not explicitly furnished with this knowledge by the publication and therefore his or her actions in not reporting the death may not constitute the commission of a crime. Taking a conservative approach to the application of the classification regime, in the minority view, the chapter does not instruct the reader to contravene s.12A of the Coroners Act 1980 (NSW) and other similar legislation in other States and Territories.
Instructions that do not constitute matters of crime
Manufacture of cyanide – Majority view
147) The Review Board considered that given the warning regarding the hazards of the manufacture of cyanide being “too dangerous for the inexperienced home chemist – some of whom may be readers of this book” (p94) that the manufacture of cyanide was not being encouraged.
148) The Review Board noted Dr Duke’s comments that the instructions provided would result in such dangerous fumes that the process of making the cyanide could lead to serious injury or could be fatal.
149) While there is a substantial amount of detail in this section, it is not as comprehensive as the section on the manufacture of barbiturates. Additionally, whilst there was a reasonable element of instruction, there was insufficient promotion and encouragement to use cyanide as a method of suicide.
150) The publication clearly stated that cyanide may result in a bad death and that it was very dangerous to manufacture. If anything, this section reinforced the idea that Nembutal (a barbiturate) was the best “Peaceful Pill”.
151) Due to this lack of encouragement and promotion, the instruction alone could not warrant an RC classification. Therefore, the information on cyanide could be accommodated in a Category 1 – Restricted classification due to the information being unsuitable for minors.
152) The Review Board determined that while there was instruction in the manufacture of cyanide, which is a restricted poison in most States and Territories, there was insufficient encouragement given to constitute instruction in matters of crime.
Manufacture of cyanide – Minority view
153) It is an offence in all States and Territories except NSW to manufacture cyanide. Under Commonwealth law it is an offence to manufacture sodium cyanide and cyanide hydroxide without first registering to do so. In the light of these offences it is the minority view that it is a ‘matter of crime’ under State and Territory law, except in NSW, to manufacture cyanide and in certain circumstances under Commonwealth law.
154) The question is whether the book provides instruction in matters of crime. Chapter 7 contains detailed instructions on making cyanide, and although a certain level of understanding of inorganic chemistry is necessary, the process is dangerous and there may be errors in the instructions, these things do not alter the fact that there is detailed instruction in pages 94 and 95 of the book.
155) Some imprimatur is given to the use of cyanide as a “Peaceful Pill”. For example, at page 91, the authors write:
“For a substance or drug to be successful as a Peaceful Pill two main criteria must be met. It must be, Reliable, and it must be Peaceful. Applying the Exit RP test to a salt like sodium cyanide gives some encouragement.
Reliability is high; few people will ever survive the ingestion of a sufficiently high dose of sodium cyanide.”
156) The minority view is that these things, taken together, constitute instruction in matters of crime.
157) There were no sections in the book that explicitly advocate assisting in a suicide. There were numerous disclaimers and warnings of severe penalties throughout the publication in relation to this point.
158) While some argument could be made that sections like the Exit RP Test table on page 203 and the “Cleaning Away” section on pages 192 and 193 may give people information on how to avoid being caught if they have assisted in a person’s suicide, the Review Board determined that the elements of instruction, encouragement and promotion were insufficient to warrant an RC classification. Therefore, the material covered by this could be accommodated in a Category 1 – Restricted classification due to the information being unsuitable for minors.
159) The Review Board noted that pages 24 and 25 are mainly concerned with assisting a suicide. No submissions were put to the Review Board that the publication instructs in the matter of the crime relating to assisting a person to suicide. The Review Board determined, after a thorough consideration of the publication, the related laws and the submissions from the parties, that the publication does not instruct in the matter of the crime of assisted suicide.
160) It should be noted that other legislation may also have relevance to this publication particularly in relation to the chapters detailing information on the drugs morphine, heroin and propoxyphene.
161) Separately, the information in the book may be used to bring about the death of others on an involuntary basis, and such information may breach other legislation and this was one submission of RTL.
162) However, the Review Board determined to not exhaustively search all legislation that the publication may breach but to restrict itself to the more significantly detailed issues that may instruct in matters of crime.
Other publications on a similar subject
163) The Review Board noted Exit’s submission that Final Exit by Derek Humphry, a publication on a similar topic received a Category 1 – Restricted Classification in 1993. However, this is not a relevant consideration for the Review Board because as an administrative review body it is required to consider each application on its own merits.
164) Previous decisions of the Classification Board or Review Board do not establish precedent of themselves. If there is any precedent in the application of the law, then the Review Board notes that Final Exit was classified in 1993 and the National Classification Scheme has undergone substantial change since that time.
Constitutional freedom of political communication, the Code & s.11 of the Act
165) The NSW CCL submitted that the publication was “a call to political action to change the law in Australia, and is protected by the implied constitutional freedom of political communication”.
166) Heerey J in the Rabelais Case states that “the Constitutional freedom of political communication assumes – indeed exists to support, foster and protect – representative democracy and the rule of law. The advocacy of law breaking falls outside this protection and is antithetical to it.”
167) The Review Board considered in detail the principle in the Code that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”. However, such a principle cannot provide protection for publications that instruct in matters of crime.
168) Further, the Review Board noted Exit’s submission that the publication had educational merit and this coupled with freedom of speech should ensure the publication’s classification as Category 1 – Restricted.
169) However, as the Review Board found that the publication instructs in matters of crime the existence of any merit – be it artistic, educational or otherwise – cannot override the requirement in the Code for the publication to be refused classification.
170) In reaching such a conclusion, the Review Board had regard to the purpose of the publication and the context of the information provided.
171) The Review Board noted that the submission of Exit included the title page and a chapter on the manufacture of barbiturates from Vogel’s Textbook of Practical Organic Chemistry 5th Ed. The Convenor asked Mr Beckett during the review meeting whether he thought that the objective purpose of Vogel’s was to instruct in organic chemistry. Mr Beckett agreed with this proposition.
172) The Review Board noted in the Rabelais Case that “the existence of words in the publication which, literally read, constitute such instruction (in matters of crime such as the manufacture of barbiturates), will not necessarily bring the publication within the Code. It must be read as a whole and in context.”
173) It is not a relevant consideration for the Review Board to consider whether Vogel’s would instruct in matters of crime. However, in considering the publication under review it is clear that “the whole and the context” of the instruction in matters of crime in this publication would be materially different from that of a standard organic chemistry text.
174) The Review Board determined that if the publication instructed in matters of crime, then freedom of political communication, the principles in the Code and the matters to be taken into consideration under s.11 of the Act cannot provide any protection and enable the publication to be classified.
175) The Review Board in a unanimous decision classified the publication ‘RC’ (Refused Classification) as it instructs in matters of crime relating to the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates), including the attempt to manufacture a prohibited drug (barbiturates); the storage of substances being used for the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates); and gives instructions enabling individuals to “take part in” the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates).
176) Further, the Review Board determined, in a 6-1 majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crime relating to the possession of a prohibited drug (barbiturates) and importation of a prohibited substance and the importation of a border controlled drug (barbiturates).
177) Additionally, the Review Board determined, in a 5-2 majority, that the publication instructs in matters of crimes under Coroners legislation in relation to reportable deaths.
178) In the two other main areas of concern in relation to the manufacture of cyanide and assisting suicide the Review Board determined (a) in a 5-2 majority that there was insufficient encouragement coupled with the detailed but flawed information regarding the manufacture of cyanide to “instruct in matters of crime”; and (b) unanimously determined that there was insufficient detailed information or encouragement to instruct in matters of the crime of assisting a suicide.
Euthanasia Book Banned
On Sunday 25 February 2007, the Classification Review Board of the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification announced The Peaceful Pill Handbook authored by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart had been refused classification.
The reasons given for the Refused Classification status include the book “instructs” in the crime of the manufacture, possession and importation of barbiturates. In addition the Board states that instructs in offences under Coroners’ legislation in all states and territories.
Speaking from Los Angeles, book author Dr Philip Nitschke says that the book neither instructs nor encourages. Rather, the book is a source of information about end of life options, in the absence of any voluntary euthanasia laws.
“Ten years ago the Australian government took away the world’s first Voluntary Euthanasia law. Last year they banned Australians from using the telephone, fax, email and Internet to seek information about end of life issues. Now they have taken to banning and burning books.”
“This is the most serious set back for those right to die activists ever in this country. The Office of Film and Literature Classification is supposed to be the independent umpire on matters of free speech. The backflip displayed today by the OFLC can only lead one to conclude that they are an instrument of government, and only too willing to do the bidding of the Attorney General, Philip Ruddock.”
The review of the book came about after the Attorney General and Right to Life Australia appealed the Office of Film and Literature Classification’s initial “Restricted Classification Class 1” ruling of December 2006, which allowed the book to be sold under strict conditions. This appeal set a precedent – no other book on end of life issues has ever been banned in this way
“Free speech is dead in Australia. The government’s attempt to push ideas, words and speech underground sets a dangerous precedent. Elderly and seriously ill Australians will now be amongst the most disadvantaged in the western world when it comes to access to end of life choice information” says Dr Nitschke.
Since its launch in Canada in September, the book has sold over 3000 copies globally with more print runs planned for the USA in March. Despite the Australian ban, the book will continue to be sold in all other countries around the world. The book’s classification is also currently being considered by the New Zealand Chief Censor with a verdict pending.
On his former website, Joshua B. Good conducted the following interview with Dr Nitschke.
Interview with Dr. Philip Nitschke
Bannedmagazine.com, March 1, 2007
Q: How much religious influence was there in the decision to ban your book?
A: A great deal. Originally the book received a classification in Australia of "Restricted Class 1" This meant it could bw printed and distributed in this country under strict conditions (warning label on the cover, not to be sold to those under 18 years etc). This decision had only been in place a month when the religious Right to Life Australia group petitioned the Federal Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock, to appeal the decision of the Board. This he duly did.
In the hearings that followed it was senior council from Right to Life that argued that the original decision of the Board had been a mistake. The Review Board (all appointed by the Attorney General) did what they were told and rolled over reversing the original OFLC decision and totally banning the book. No other book on end of life issues has ever been subjected to this treatment and the incident has focused attention on the willingness of the Australian government to be influenced by the Religious Right. Media statements from various Christian lobby groups have since applauded the actions of the Attorney General.
Illegal book heads through internet gateway
theage.com.au, April 1, 2007
THE outlawed euthanasia manual The Peaceful Pill Handbook will soon be available as a downloadable document from the internet via Google Books. The deal with Google Books was made in the US last week by the book's author and euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke, who said the download version, illegal under Australian law, would cost about US$30 ($A37).
Speaking to The Sunday Age on Friday, Dr Nitschke said The Peaceful Pill Handbook had been a steady seller on Amazon.com, often ranking in the top 1000 books out of a pool of 2 million — but Australian customers ran the risk of losing the book to interception by customs officers, and the downloadable version would be a more secure option.
"The download version will be illegal but people will take that risk because they feel they won't be tracked down," said Dr Nitschke. "We've heard there has been some trouble with buying it on Amazon … from people not receiving books."
Sample material from the book is already available at Google Books. "You can read the foreword, the index and the first three pages of each chapter," said Dr Nitschke.
A spokeswoman at the Office of Film and Literature Classification said the office couldn't comment on the downloadable version of The Peaceful Pill Handbook but said: "Once something's been refused classification, it cannot be legally sold. This is now an enforcement matter which is governed by the states and territories."
In the May 2007 Senate Estimates, the new Director of the OFLC was questioned about the the banning of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
The speakers were:
Office of Film and Literature Classification
Mr Donald McDonald, Director
Mr Jeremy Fenton, Senior Classifier
Support services for government operations Output group 4
Mr Alex Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Legal Policy
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS: Office of
Film and Literature Classification: Discussion
Date 24 May, 2007
Committee name STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
Database Estimates Comm.
CHAIR—I want to ask about Dr Nitschke’s The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which I understand has recently been refused classification. Can you advise the reasons for that refusal?
Mr McDonald—I will go to the report of the board.
CHAIR—Is that a report like the other reports that you are able to table?
Mr McDonald—It is. The Classification Review Board made a decision on 24 February to refuse classification.
CHAIR—I am interested in the reasons and whether you are able to table that decision.
Mr McDonald—I certainly can. It is a very long report but I am happy to table it.
CHAIR—Thank you. I understand one of the key reasons was that the document instructed in matters of crime, ancillary to committing suicide, and specifically the importation or manufacturing of a prohibited substance. That was one of the specific reasons for its refusal.
Mr McDonald—The manufacture of barbiturates—that is correct.
CHAIR—What steps are being taken to ensure that material which promotes or instructs suicide specifically is refused classification?
Mr McDonald—It would not be our responsibility to take steps generally. We respond to specific publications when they come before us.
CHAIR—If there was a specific publication which instructed or promoted suicide, what category would that fall into?
Mr McDonald—I will ask Mr Fenton to provide the answer.
Mr Fenton—The board’s understanding is that suicide is not a crime in Australia in any of the jurisdictions; therefore, it would be looked at in the context of any material the board received under the act, the code and the classification guidelines.
CHAIR—I will just seek clarity from the department as to whether that is the case.
Mr Anderson—Yes, Senator.
CHAIR—There is no reason to refuse classification of a publication which promotes or supports suicide?
Mr Anderson—Senator, under the National Classification Code, publications must be refused classification if they ‘promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence’, which is where you need the link back to crime.
CHAIR—Crime or violence?
Mr Anderson—Crime or violence, or if they ‘describe or otherwise deal with matters of … crime, cruelty, violence or revolting, or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults’. That is the test the board has to apply.
CHAIR—Are we saying that suicide does not fall within that test? Is that what we are saying? Is that your response?
Mr Anderson—Senator, the application of guidelines is a matter for the board. It is a judgement that the board itself has to make.
CHAIRThank you very much for that. Mr McDonald, thank you again, and congratulations on your appointment.
Mr McDonald—Thank you, Senator.
CHAIR—We will move on.
Mr Anderson—Senator, just before you move on, there was one question I took on notice earlier about the period between the decision of the government on the integration of OFLC and the actual announcement. Could I just address that. There was a period of two days between the decision and the public announcement.
CHAIR—Thank you, Mr Anderson.
In May 2007, PENTHOUSE magazine ran into problems with the Classification Board. The editor, Ian Gerrard, blamed it on the extracts of THE PEACEFUL PILL that he had published. The Classification Board claimed otherwise.
Penthouse in fight over genitals
news.com.au, June 7, 2007
Mr Gerrard has said he suspects that published extracts from a controversial book written by euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke may have led to the decision.
“(The book) delivers a scathing attack on Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock,” Mr Gerrard has said.
Mr Ruddock has said the matter has nothing to do with the excerpts.
“I am advised that the content in question is not the extract from the Nitschke article,” Mr Ruddock has said.
“But in any event, this is a matter for the classification board, which is an independent statutory body.”
The board's director Donald McDonald has said the board is still considering the matter.
Documents show the censorship board formed a “preliminary view” that three images inside the magazine and an advertisement on the back cover breached the classification guidelines.
Australian Penthouse runs Peaceful Pill Handbook Extracts
May 20, 2007
In a move designed to challenge the excesses of the “Supernanny” Australian state Australian Penthouse has published extracts of the banned The Peaceful Pill Handbook in its June Edition.
As editor Ian Gerrard says, Penthouse is no stranger to censorship. "We're an adult magazine and I think we should talk about adult issues.
"The banning of Philip Nitschke’s (book) has deprived us of yet another choice, pre-emptively silenced yet another debate and stripped away another human right"
Exit congratulates Penthouse for their courage
Fury over euthanasia book ban
expressadvocate.com.au, August 22, 2007
ANGRY voluntary euthanasia advocates marched on Robertson Federal Liberal MP Jim Lloyd's Gosford office on Friday.
About 30 protesters converged on Mr Lloyd's Mann St electoral office to present a petition to show their disgust at the Federal Government's decision to ban a book by controversial euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke.
NSW Voluntary Euthanasia Society Central Coast convener Romaine Rutnam said the ban was an attack on freedom of speech.
"We are responsible for our own lives and I think we're responsible for our own deaths as well,'' she said.:
"Euthanasia has this negative connotation. But it's from the Greek meaning `good death'.
"There are those who have lived full lives and are just getting tired, they've done all they wanted to do, why can't they have a little help?''
Dr Rutnam said voluntary euthanasia was legal in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium and the US state of Oregon.
The Federal Government has maintained a tough stance against voluntary euthanasia.
In 1997, it overturned Northern Territory Government legislation which let people legally end their lives in the Top End. Mr Lloyd, who was in Canberra at the time of the protest, said he would forward the petition to the ``appropriate people'' for consideration.
Annual Report 2006-2007
The OFLC received 24 complaints about publications. Six complaints criticised the RC decision made by the Classification Review Board for the book The Peaceful Pill Handbook by Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart.
Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2006-2007
Each year the Review Board deals with at least one title that creates
considerable controversy and the 2006-2007 year was no exception. Apart from
the Islamic literature, the title that created most media coverage was The
Peaceful Pill Handbook, an instructional handbook on suicide. This
publication was refused classification as the Review Board determined that
it instructed in matters of crime, particularly the importation and
manufacture of barbiturates and other matters relating to reportable deaths.
Maureen Shelley Convenor
The Future of Free Speech
The advent of the Internet has revolutionised the way we live. Just like the printing press before it, the Internet has democratised all forms of expression and communication. No longer is one dependent upon social connections or qualifications, today information is everywhere and for a large part it is accessible to everyone who seeks to know.
Where end of life information is concerned, it is only logical that groups such as Exit will seek to exploit the opportunities offered by the net. In this new multimedia age, this means that information will take many forms beyond the written word. And it is the Internet that allows this enhancement with images and pictures, voices and sound.
For these reasons, Exit is soon to launch a digital version of the Peaceful Pill Handbook. Neither a book nor a workshop, but somewhere in between, Exit hopes to deliver - in real time - this valuable and much sought after information to those who seek it. Yet already there are voices of dissent, suggesting this approach is a dangerous one and that the vulnerable could be harmed.
Academic studies of the relationship between knowledge, attitudes and health practices suggest a link that is tenuous at best. Exit believes Internet publication offers little risk to vulnerable individuals. In this, we are happy to be guided by Derek Humphry. When his critics screamed “stop” when he published Final Exit some 16 years ago, arguing that such easy-to-access information would lead to a rise in suicide rates, Derek stood his ground as his naysayers were proven wrong. History will be similar for Exit. Yes, Virginia, the Internet really does change everything, most often for the better.
Phillip Nitschke: Exitorial
On the publishing front, 2008 will see a new digital edition of the Peaceful Pill Handbook. With the printed version banned, the Internet represents one of the few avenues open for Australians to access end of life information. Supplementing the digital version will be a series of video clips, parts of which will continue to be made available on YouTube.com to stimulate discussion and debate. The new digital edition will be published by Exit US.
In June 2007, the New Zealand OFLC banned THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
In February 2008, the New Zealand customs seized THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK (NEW REVISED INTERNATIONAL EDITION). The NZOFLC found it to be the same format as the original, apart from having the sections dealing with practical instructional detail on how to commit crime blacked out.
In May 2008 the New Zealand OFLC passed this censored version with an R18-rating.
In September 2008, the Review Board dismissed a challenge to the R18-rating, which was brought by the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, and Right to Life New Zealand.
Following the New Zealand Review Board's decision, Dr Philip Nitschke expressed an interest in submitting a copy of the same censored version to the Australian Classification Board.
Film & Literature Review Board Rule in Favour of Euthanasia
September 16, 2008
Dr Philip Nitschke, Director of Exit International, said today that the decision by the NZ Film & Literature Board of Review to dismiss an appeal by the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards and Right to Life New Zealand against the publication of The Peaceful Pill Handbook was a victory for free speech and common sense.
The 24-page decision was handed down in Auckland yesterday by Review Board President, Claudia Elliott.
“We are thrilled with the result”, said Exit Director Dr Philip Nitschke from Darwin.
“This means that New Zealanders will have access to a range of critical information that can provide them with a peaceful death at a time of their choosing. We hope also that in going forward groups such as these realise they have no right to dictate to the wider community what adults should and should not read and discern for themselves."
Since the book was provided with a restricted R18 classification in May 2008, there have been 3 interim injunctions and then a final, formal appeal by the SPCS and R2L NZ.
Those opposing the book’s distribution would now need to take action in the NZ High Court, but only if there is an error at law in the Board's decision.
Dr Nitschke said the decision clears the way for a fresh attempt to get the book classified so it may be published in Australia where it is currently banned outright.
”We are talking to our Australian lawyers about lodging a copy of the New Zealand edition of the Handbook with the Australia Office of Film and Literature Classification, making use of the detailed the arguments outlined by the New Zealand Board of Review to justify re-classification here.”
The decision by the NZ Film & Literature Board of Review is available
In October 2008, Dr Philip Nitschke launched a digital version of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK during his tour of the UK.
The Peaceful Pill eHandbook - Digital Edition
Is a new kind of “book” combining: video, audio, images and the printed word
Is always up to date, providing real time updates on key facts and information as they come to hand
Brings Exit’s flagship Workshops into your home, so you can learn about your end-of-life options when and where it suits you
Is yours to own on your personal PC
Authored by one of the world’s leading experts on voluntary euthanasia - Australia’s Dr Philip Nitschke - The Peaceful Pill eHandbook uses its unique ‘Reliability & Peacefulness Test’ to rank different approaches, ensuring that you can make the best decision for your situation.
Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2007-08
Seven complaints were received about the RC (Refused Classification) decision for the Peaceful Pill Handbook. The Classification Board had originally classified the publication Category 1 restricted.
Annual Report 2008-2009
The Peaceful Pill eHandbook was deemed by the Classification Board to be an Eligible Electronic Publication and therefore deemed to hold the same classification as the hard copy version, which is RC
The Australian Classification Board: History, Current
Policies and Future Challenges
Speech by Donald McDonald
Director of the Classification Board (2007-current)
Opening speech of the BSANZ Conference
To Deprave and Corrupt: Forbidden, Hidden and Censored Books
14 July 2010
The Peaceful Pill Handbook
Also in late 2006, the Classification Board classified The Peaceful Pill Handbook by euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke, Category 1 restricted. This classification means the book is restricted to adults.
In early 2007, the Classification Review Board received two applications to review this decision, one from the interest group The Right to Life Association, and the other from the Attorney-General at the time.
The Review Board decided to set aside the decision made by the Board and Refused Classification to the book, as in their view, it instructed in matters of crime relating to the manufacture, storage, use, possession and importation of barbiturates, which are generally a prohibited drug.
The Review Board decision means that the Peaceful Pill Handbook cannot be sold in Australia, nor can it be legally downloaded online.
In 2008, another of Mr Nitschke’s books, Killing Me Softly, came to my attention through various media reports. I decided to use my legislative powers to call in this book for classification.
The Classification Board subsequently classified this book Unrestricted. In the view of the Board, the book dealt with adult themes with a high degree of intensity in a discreet way, that was low in impact and not exploitative, and did not instruct or incite the committing of a crime.
In relation to these examples there is a fine line between content which discusses themes, issues and legitimate debate about euthanasia, and content which instructs and encourages criminal acts that facilitate euthanasia, such as the manufacture of drugs or removal of evidence of suicide to prevent the reporting of such a death to a Coroner.
A major challenge for the Board when dealing with contentious material, is determining at what point material goes beyond discussing an illegal act to clearly instructing or inciting an illegal act.
A key feature of the publications discussed above is that they all discuss highly controversial and sometimes criminal acts. These are vexed issues that elicit emotive responses and raise serious questions that are debated by policy-makers and regulators not just here in Australia but also abroad.
That these publications came before the Board at all demonstrates that community standards are often in a state of flux and can appear to change quite dramatically, for example, in response to global events. Widespread community concerns about ensuring safety from terrorist attacks is a relatively new priority in Australia – driven by events such as the 9/11 and Bali terrorist attacks.
Lewd and scandalous – no – but offensive by today’s community standards and concerns – yes possibly.
THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK has now evolved into THE PEACEFUL PILL E-HANDBOOK.
Drawing upon the scientific expertise of medical physician & applied physicist, Dr Philip Nitschke, the PPeH is published primarily in online format to allow MONTHLY updating of breaking news & developments.
The Peaceful Pill eHandbook is the ONLY end of life choices guide book:
Exit's PEACEFUL PILL website carries the following warning.
Note: Purchasing and Downloading this book in Australia may be illegal
Classification Board Annual Report 2010-2011
The homepage for Exit International was also submitted for classification. It contains text and associated images and two video files. Exit International is "a leading End of Life Choices information & advocacy non-profit organisation, founded by Dr Philip Nitschke PhD, MD" and “publisher of the best-selling, fully online Peaceful Pill eHandbook”. The classifiable element is themes that are high in viewing impact. This content was classified R 18+ pursuant to Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Here, the National Library of Australia explains what 'restricted access' means in regards to THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
Ben Veness @venessb
11:15 am - 28 May 13
"The Peaceful Pill Handbook" by @philipnitschke is the only book banned in Australia in 35 years. Copy in the @nlagovau vault. #NLDS13
National Library Aus @nlagovau
11:17 am - 28 May 13
@venessb @philipnitschke ...and here's the catalogue record: nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn3822687 (restricted access)
Ben Veness @venessb
28 May 11:22 am - 28 May 13
@nlagovau @philipnitschke Thanks! What are the criteria for access?
National Library Aus @nlagovau
28 May 12:21 pm - 28 May 13
@venessb The book was Refused Classification (RC) so we’re unable to provide any public access. More info here: http://www.classification.gov.au/Public/Resources/Documents/2007%20media%20releases/952.pdf
In June 2016, The Guardian Australia published an article on how the Australian Border Force has seized and destroyed copies of THE PEACEFUL PILL HANDBOOK.
Border Force seizes copy of assisted suicide book written by Philip
theguardian.com.au, June 16, 2016
People who have ordered the book receive instead a note from the Border Force which reads: “Customs prohibits importation of documents relating to suicide ... The importation of a device designed or customised to be used by a person to commit suicide is prohibited absolutely.”
Zola Ortenburg, 73, from Victoria, said she was furious to receive the note in her letterbox after ordering the book earlier this year, describing it as “censorship”.
“My reaction was at first, ‘this is a joke’,” she said.
“But then I got very cross as I should be able to read what I want to and make my own choices. My husband and I are in very good health and have no inclination to act on the materials in any way. But I want more information for the future and I should be able to access information about all sides of the argument so I can make up my own mind.”
She added that magazines on display at newsagencies often contained material some would find offensive, but that those people had a choice whether to read it or not. Ortenburg believed Border Force time would be better spent seizing guns and illicit drugs.
Her husband, Tom Ortenburg, 78, added: “If they ban this book then they should ban the Bible as well, because it has a lot of killing in it.
“This is censorship by stealth,” he said.
Philip Nitschke: I don’t judge people at all if they want to die
Zola Ortenburg has written to the attorney general, George Brandis, to express her concern at the book being banned. The letter says: “Why should I, as a mature Australian woman, not be allowed to read what I choose?
“Talking about this with my husband he reminded me that Adolf Hitler ordered books should be destroyed in 1933,” the letter states.
“How far away are from this happening in Australia?
“Does this mean that Australian Border Force has an oversupply of staff or perhaps should they be better utilised in stopping the ever increasing importation of drugs and there ingredients not to mention the guns and everything to do with them.”
The Peaceful Pill Handbook was first published in 2006, though it has been updated since then. Nitschke said this was the first time he was aware of the book being seized and prevented from entering the country.
“The vast majority of Peaceful Pill book sales are online. We only keep a print versions because of the large, but decreasing group of elderly who don’t want to use the internet,” Nitschke said.
“These seizures are a new and worrying development and I’m taken aback by yet another attempt by the federal government to interfere with the choices and decisions of elderly Australians. The heavy handed use of censorship to restrict access to the Peaceful Pill Handbook, now the world’s best selling manual on accessing a peaceful death, shows how fragile any notion of free speech is in this country.
“Australia is the only country in the world that is trying to restrict access to this book.”
He said mail directed towards the voluntary euthanasia organisation he founded, Exit International, was also being opened before it reached the Australian office.