His plan is for a clinic where seriously ill people could go to get help to end their lives.
A similar clinic in Switzerland has assisted about one thousand foreigners to die since 1998.
Dr Nitschke says the Fiji government is considering his euthanasia proposal which could earn the country "considerable income" if it went ahead.
Speaker:Dr Philip Nitschke, euthanasia advocate
NITSCHKE: It'll be a very similar proposal to the one that's operated for sometime in Switzerland, and what it would mean that people who were seriously ill, we're talking about people who are in fact terminally ill would be able to make a much easier journey from countries in the Pacific, such as Australia or New Zealand to Fiji, where at a particular clinic they would be able to be given the best of the end of life drugs, which if they wish to take they could, and I suppose if they didn't, they wouldn't. It would allow a person to have access to a peaceful death in an environment where the process was sanctioned as opposed to a situation as we have here in Australia and some other countries, of course, where such procedures are not possible, because of the legality of the issue.
COUTTS: Now Doctor, did you approach Fiji or did they approach you?
NITSCHKE: No, we approached them and they responded by asking for a much more detailed outline of the proposal, which we then provided and we're at the stage now where we want to be able to travel to Fiji and go through the details of the proposal.
COUTTS: Why Fiji?
NITSCHKE: Well, why Fiji? Well, look it's hard to answer that one. It's obviously a situation where we were unsure of the response that we would get in a number of countries and I guess we chose Fiji, waiting to see what would happen. It's obvious that there is no point in approaching countries which you've got a known opposition to such process, so we were really open to the idea. There may be other possibilities to, but Fiji was the first we've tried.
COUTTS: And I just wondered, some will think that this might be a callous approach, because Fiji as you know is cash strapped, it's economy is struggling and there's money to be made here. Is that not a sinister approach to it?
NITSCHKE: I think that's a fairly sinister approach, yes, you've summed that up. Look the reality that it's a very humane process and a country which shows some compassion and some concern for its neighbours I think would entertain such ideas. Now the fact that Australia can't bring itself to go down this path says more about Australia, so we're hoping that we see attitudes in a country like Fiji that we see in some of the more enlightened countries of Europe and some of the states of America, where they've chosen to go down this path, because they believe that's humane and compassionate. The difference with Switzerland and we hope with Fiji is that they allow that humane strategy to apply to other countries in the region.
COUTTS: And you're thinking that the regime that's run in the country at the moment might have been more amenable to the idea?
NITSCHKE: Yes, I think so. I mean we got a very positive response from the attorney-general. Look, it's not gone any further than that. We don't know what the final outcome will be, but we were encouraged by the initial reaction.
COUTTS: And so you won't know when the doors will open?
NITSCHKE: No, we're hoping to go over there, we're hoping to travel to Fiji and talk about this proposal in more detail in the near future.
COUTTS: And the one in Switzerland and clinics like this around the place now. How do you about it? I mean do you advertise, how do people know?
NITSCHKE: Well, everyone, no I'm not going to say everyone, but people who are in serious situations facing death, looking for a humane and compassionate way to take this step at the time of their choosing usually you get to hear about or are aware of the process in Switzerland, which, as I said, has not only got humane compassionate legislation, but allows that process to be applicable to people who travel to the country. So other countries like Holland or Belguim or some states of America, like Oregon, have compassionate legislation, but they restrict it to people who live in their particular jurisdiction. Now, Switzerland doesn't do that and, of course, we're hoping that Fiji will follow that same model.
COUTTS: And so Fiji will have to introduce enabling legislation itself before they can do this?
NITSCHKE: Yes, I would imagine so and it's very simple, but that's what they would need to do and also, of course, it would need to be something that they're quite comfortable with. But as I said, we had some positive response and we're pleased.
COUTTS: Now, what are the prerequisites? I mean you can't just bowl up and say I want to die. Are there prerequisites, must they be terminally ill and how do you prove that?
NITSCHKE: Well, that's true. I mean these criteria need to established, but it's not that hard. We're talking about people who are terminally illl and people that have got the appropriate medical evidence that that is the case would be the people who would be considered. As you said, you don't just get off a plane and ask for help to die, but going back to the idea of Fiji. I mean this is a country with a strong sense of its own independence and it's a country which has shown a lot of detailed enlightenment on a lot of other issues and so I think that in a sense Australians, given that they don't have this option here and the same would be also true of people in New Zealand would really like the idea simply being able to make that relatively easy journey, rather than a protracted and much more difficult trip to Zurich, via Singapore that a number of our citizens have had to take on.
COUTTS: And what would it cost a person if they were involved in this ?
NITSCHKE: We've been asked to estimate that and we imagine it'll be around $5,000. Now that's small, compared to what happens in Switzerland, where they charge around about $12,000, but I can't imagine it would cost much more than that. Setting up the facility in Singapore we estimate will cost us in the order of around about a million dollars and on top of that, of course, people coming along to take part in such a process really have to pay also air fares and sometimes that can be difficult for people who are seriously ill.
COUTTS: And then be repatriated back to their home countries?
NITSCHKE: Yes, I mean, people travel there obviously not to return, but families will travel with them and then the families would return back to their home.
COUTTS: Alright, and so it's sometime yet before this might happen in Fiji?
NITSCHKE: Well, it wouldn't take long to set up, but, of course, obviously there needs to be a willingness of the Fiji authorities and we're taking that step-by-step.
COUTTS: Now Dr Nitschke, you've taken an awful lot of flack in your life over this, because, obviously it's a contentious issue. Some people are for it and some are vehemently against it. Has there been a shift in attitude over your journey?
NITSCHKE: I think so, I mean I've been involved in this for 15 years since Australia and the Northern Territory brought in the world's first legislation in fact allowing a person who is terminally ill to get help to die, legally helped to die and there has been a shift. I mean if you go doing polls and people are doing them a lot. You find regularly that about 80% of Australians think that there should be lawful ways in which a person who is terminally ill can get help to die. Now that hasn't translated into legislation here, because the political process simply has difficulty with this issue and there's been some very concerted opposition from entrenched forces within. So unless, as they world does change, I guess we will eventually get some enlightened process in this country, but in the meantime, watching people take that difficult journey to Zurich, it could be a whole lot easier for people here if we could simply set up a Pacific solution if you like, where people could have in this area to take this step.
COUTTS: Do you feel vindicated with this change of attitude?
NITSCHKE: Well I guess so, I mean it seemed to me 15 years ago when the Northern Territory brought in the laws and I was in a sense the first doctor in the world to help people legally to die, that this was an obvious way for a civilised society to move. But after the overturning of that Territory law by the Federal Government of Australia and now as 15 years have been wasted since, with politicians running for cover every time we mention the word, it really has been disappointing while we watch the rest of the world, especially in Europe and America, move forward. So I guess one day Australia will catch up again.
COUTTS: And Fiji, if that doesn't pan out the way you want it have you got a Plan B?
NITSCHKE: Yes, we'll be approaching other countries and certainly countries in the Pacific and we want to put the proposal down, have countries, governments to look at it and see in fact whether it will benefit their own people and also, of course, whether it will benefit people in their neighbourhood. But the Fiji model was the first we've tried and, of course, we'll be certainly taking that to other countries if they decide on reflection not to proceed in Fiji.
COUTTS: Are you able to name those other countries across the Pacific?
NITSCHKE: Ah, no, I won't name them. I mean we've made some inquiries and put out some and asked some questions about neighbouring countries, but I don't want to name them at this stage.
COUTTS: Well, without naming them, what kind of feedback have you been getting?
NITSCHKE: Ah, wait and see, a tentative interest. Let's just think about. Interestingly, no one's rejecting it out of hand and, of course, when we went down this path with Fiji over a year ago now when we made first contact with the Fiji authorities. We half expected the door just to slam, so it's not been the case and I guess that might reflect the change in attitudes, not just in the South Pacific, but probably around the world.