Wednesday, October 3, 2012


It looked like one of the more normal corners of the gallery, a brown leather couch on a persian rug, with a glass coffee table and a standard lamp as the main light source, a glaringly bourgeois display next to Juan Davila's completely outrageous 'The Arse End Of The World' (which I told 'theO' I hated on the basis that that might keep it on display).

'My Beautiful Chair' it was called - an interactive installation by Greg Taylor and Dr Philip Nitschke, 2010. On the coffee table was the Nitschke Euthanasia Machine. The only machine that has done its job, four times I think in the Northern Territory before the Federal Government intervened and overturned the state legislation permitting end-of-life, is in the British Museum, Science Section. The Powerhouse in Sydney had it but the pressure to not 'contaminate the public with such evil' got the better of them. You can sit on the couch, the beautiful chair, and go through the touch screen computer programme confirming that the next touch will mean you will die, by the injection of barbiturate from the big syringe, slightly exaggerated for artistic effect, waiting in its case on the coffee table to be activated from inertia into a lethal push. I only saw females sitting there having a go. 

Dr Nitschke, an invited speaker, spoke in the conference session on "End of Life Issues". A humanist, surely, he too seems as fearless as it gets. He speaks directly, with little emotion, and with confidence but not arrogance. He struck me as a quite humble everyman, except that unlike everyone else swanning around the place he was now dealing with the federal health department responsible for medical registration needing to demonstrate why he should be registered - that is, why he should not be struck off. When the question arose about the source of funding and costs of maintaining life (in those who have no desire to continue), he countered the ex-politician now ordained priest's repost that that was a dangerous question with the simple observation that no question is dangerous. And there the session ended.

Here's what Gonzo (aka David Walsh) says about the installation on theO:

by David Walsh

So my brother asked me to conduct a group that helps out those interested in euthanasia. They told me some stuff relating to helping someone off themselves, and also this: the suicide rate in the cancer population is not significantly different to the general population.

My brother had cancer, you probably guessed.

My brother's disease progressed (read: he became more humiliated, less my brother) without requesting death. He was probably too sick to make the request anyway.

His doctor, a staunch Christian, compromised his beliefs by telling us (me and my brother's girlfriend) that whatever happened he would write on the death certificate that the cause of death was complications relating to his cancer.

So nearer death (are you engaged in a life/death binary or can you be a little bit dead?) Lynne, the girlfriend, and I started talking about whether we should off him. We talked about increasing his morphine dose. I wanted to.

He died. I don't know whether she took my advice.

The night before he died (we murdered him?) I had a big night out. I went to a Paul Kelly concert at the Uni Bar.

1 comment:

Susan Scheid said...

I have to confess to just a wee little wonder how he'll take to death actually coming up on him. Just can't help thinking of Bertrand Russell's death bed "conversion."