Second patient turns to Dr Death machine

But Australia's MPs seek to cancel law allowing euthanasia

Janet Mills, a 52-year-old with terminal cancer, announced yesterday that she would be the second person to try to kill herself under the Northern Territory's voluntary euthanasia law. But a political storm is threatening to stifle the controversial law after the Australian parliament voted to overturn it this week.

Mrs Mills, of South Australia, held a press conference in Darwin yesterday attended by Philip Nitschke, the man known as "Doctor Death" after inventing a computerised machine that allows a terminally ill person to choose their moment of death by pressing a button that induces a lethal injection.

The first person to use the "death machine" successfully last September under the Northern Territory's law, the world's first allowing voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill people, was Robert Dent, a father with incurable cancer. Speaking at the Dent family home in Darwin yesterday, with her husband at her side, Mrs Mills announced that she wanted to be the second. She is suffering from a form of cancer similar to that which killed Paul Eddington, the actor.

Mrs Mills has been supported by a doctor and a psychiatrist outside the Northern Territory, who have confirmed that her disease has no cure and that she was not suffering from clinical depression when she asked for her life to be terminated. But she lacks a third crucial requirement under the law, the signature of a territory specialist doctor on her written request to die.

"I appeal to a territory doctor to meet me and simply agree with my specialist oncologist in South Australia that I am dying," she said. "I now have a few weeks left to live. I am asking and begging for this."

But her request may not be heeded. The Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act has caused a nationwide furore since it came into force in July. The territory's own doctors, conservative at the best of times, have steered clear of it, isolating Dr Nitschke from their ranks. A chorus of disapproval has reverberated across Australia, from the Australian Medical Association, church leaders and the mainstream press who have branded the law as morally capricious and the Northern Territory as immature for bringing it into existence.

And now, the biggest threat to the law's future has come from Canberra, where MPs in the House of Representatives, the lower house in the federal parliament, voted by 88 votes to 35 in the early hours of Tuesday to overturn it, after a long and emotional debate. They did so by passing, on a conscience vote, the Euthanasia Laws Bill, introduced by a backbench MP from the ruling Liberal Party, which nullifies the territory law. The federal bill will now go to the Senate, the upper house, for approval. Dr Nitschke and his supporters have vowed to wage a campaign to defeat the bill before the Senate vote, expected early next year.

The Northern Territory's law allowing assisted suicide has now moved out of the realms of medicine and ethics and into the murky world of politics, specifically that perennial battleground under Australia's federal system, states' rights. Australia's six state governments have supported the Northern Territory government in condemning Canberra's intervention, branding it a dangerous usurpation of the regional governments' powers to pass their own laws. But the territory, a place the size of Europe and with less than 1 per cent of Australia's population, does not have the same constitutional status as the states. Although it has self-government, the territory's purse-strings, and therefore almost everything else, are controlled ultimately by Canberra. The territory does not have the right, as the states do, to appeal to the High Court against Canberra's intervention on constitutional grounds.

With the euthanasia law apparently in its dying throes, Dr Nitschke warned yesterday that he had patients queuing up to use it in the months before the Senate vote. He also received a brickbat over his decision to donate his inaugural "death machine", used to help Robert Dent die, for display at a Sydney museum. Bob Collins, a Senate member from the Northern Territory, said: "Philip Nitschke has gone one step too far. This is ghoulish. I call on him to desist."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn