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Martin Burgess

Martin died 23 October 2014

A former masseur, Martin Burgess wanted to be remembered as man who gave life his best shot

From the NT News – 25 October 2014

EIGHTEEN years after four people made use of the Territory’s short-lived euthanasia laws, it is believed long-time right-to-die campaigner Martin Burgess ended his life, illegally, in his Rapid Creek home using the drug nembutal.

The frail, cancer-ridden 71-year-old made the last of several YouTube video pleas for help on August 21.

“If there is anybody out there who could provide, supply or sell me enough of the euthanasia drug nembutal so I could have this choice, I would be very grateful,” Martin said to the camera before reading his phone number and address.

As of yesterday it had attracted nearly 400 views.

Detectives are investigating, but Dr Nitschke knows it was nembutal, probably dropped off anonymously in Martin’s letterbox or at his doorstep.

He said there had been several other “successful” YouTube campaigns around the country

“There’s a lot of the drug around but trying to find it when you’re desperate is not that easy …” Mr Nitschke said.

“Martin knew that anyone who was providing it to him, certainly obtaining it is a crime, but anyone who might give it to him, might be viewed as assisting a suicide and in the Northern Territory that’s a crime that can get you life imprisonment.

“He just said to me on the phone he was pretty pleased, I guess that was code for something good had happened and I took it as that’s what the situation was.”

Mr Nitschke said he had been made aware of a final note from Martin thanking YouTube for its help.

In 1995, under the government of Marshall Perron, the Territory became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass voluntary euthanasia laws.

On an earlier video, months after his diagnosis with terminal rectal cancer, Martin asked the government to reinstate his choice to end his life, should it come to it.

“This choice is not available here. Ironic really, as I was here … when the Northern Territory euthanasia laws came in and I was working for its passage,” he said.

Under a fledgling John Howard Government and driven by then-backbencher Kevin Andrews, the Commonwealth repealed the laws in early 1997.

Only statehood could have blocked the Canberra intervention.

Confusingly, the Rights of The Terminally Ill Act still exists but has no legal effect.

To make sure the NT wouldn’t try anything again, the Territory’s Self-Government Act was amended so laws relating to voluntary euthanasia could no longer be passed.

Despite repeated legislative attempts, no Australian state or territory has right to die legislation.

Martin ran for the seat of Solomon with the Voluntary Euthanasia Party in 2013 and had also attempted to get to Switzerland, where he could have legally ended his life, but paperwork and his illness got in the way.

Mr Nitschke was yesterday expecting a call from police and was unsure if the video assistance he provided Martin would land him in trouble.

“It’s an interesting question …, you could perhaps draw the bow ‘well, you helped put the film up’, but I don’t know,” he said.

READ: JUDY STILL SUPPORTS EUTHANASIA 17 YEARS LATER

Police said investigations were still too early.

The Greens have tabled an exposure draft for national Dying with Dignity legislation, which would restore the rights of Territorians, all Australians, to end their lives under strict safeguard conditions.

This bill is currently before a senate inquiry, which is due to report on November 10.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the Coalition “would prefer to maintain the status quo.”

“Martin knew that anyone who was providing it to him, certainly obtaining it is a crime, but anyone who might give it to him, might be viewed as assisting a suicide and in the Northern Territory that’s a crime that can get you life imprisonment.

“He just said to me on the phone he was pretty pleased, I guess that was code for something good had happened and I took it as that’s what the situation was.”

Dr Nitschke said he had been made aware of a final note from Mr Burgess thanking YouTube for its help.

In 1995, under the government of Marshall Perron, the Territory became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass voluntary euthanasia laws.

In an earlier video, months after his diagnosis with terminal rectal cancer, Mr Burgess asked the Government to reinstate his choice to end his life, should it come to it.

“This choice is not available here. Ironic really, as I was here … when the Northern Territory euthanasia laws came in and I was working for its passage,” he said.

Under a fledgling John Howard government and driven by then-backbencher Kevin Andrews, the Commonwealth repealed the laws in early 1997.

Zach Hope

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