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DOCTOR DEATH'S SUICIDE MACHINE; EXCLUSIVE German medic wants to help Midlanders die.

Byline: BY ADAM ASPINALL

A CONTROVERSIAL German doctor who invented a suicide machine has revealed he has been contacted by desperate Midlanders - and is willing to help them die.

Dr Roger Kusch, nicknamed 'Doctor Death' in his homeland, is one of Europe's leading supporters of assisted suicide and claims he has helped people to take their own lives.

The politician wants Germany to replace Switzerland as the destination of choice for suicidal people.

And he said he is inspired by the Swiss euthanasia clinic Dignitas, where Midland rugby player Dan James, who was paralysed while training, went to die in September, aged 23.

Speaking through an interpreter he said: "We have had quite a few inquiries from people in Britain.

"In fact people from Britain have made most of all the inquiries we received from foreign countries.

"And I will go on in assisting people to commit suicide and talk about it."

The politician made headlines across the globe in April when he revealed his sick suicide machine to the world.

The device is a modified perfusor, a machine normally used to inject medicine over a long period of time.

Kusch has modified the item by installing a button that allows the patient to set it off. He said: "It is no problem to build the machine for someone with basic knowledge of physical science.

"The suicide machine was necessary to be invented to show how absurd the legal situation of people being willing to die in Germany is.

"Up to now it has not been used and it is not determined to be exported to any other country.

"We are fighting for the sovereign right of any person to die in dignity."

But last night Dr Kusch's boasts were condemned by leading assisted-suicide opponent Dr Peter Saunders, from the charity Care Not Killing.

He said: "This guy sounds like Dr Death.

"He should be caring for people, not killing them.

"In my experience a request for suicide is always a request for help.

"Doctors working in palliative care for their whole career will tell you that they come across thousands of patients who want to commit suicide.

"But once their basic needs are taken care of they could count the number of people who want to go through with it using the fingers on one hand.

"In my career as a surgeon I only had two requests and both patients changed their minds once we responded to their own particular needs.

"What people need to remember is that in the last five years just over 100 people have gone to Dignitas to die, but in that same time period over 3 million people have died of natural causes.

"So no matter what people like Dr Kusch argue, the demand is actually very small indeed.

"For example take the case of Dan James. There are over 20,000 tetraplegics in Britain but the vast majority want the help to live, not to die.

"I think he (Dr Kusch) is profoundly misguided and is only increasing the risk that vulnerable people will be abused and exploited.

"There is a reason assisted suicide is illegal in most of the world, and that is to protect people and increase public safety.

"We at Care Not Killing believe that the answer does not lie in suicide but in improving the care for people in the first place."

The law on suicide in Britain remains vague, and while it is not illegal to commit suicide under the Suicide Act 1961, it is illegal "to aid, abet, counsel or procure a suicide or a suicide attempt".

But since Dignitas opened 10 years ago, 101 British citizens have taken advantage of Swiss laws that allow them to die with help from doctors and nurses.

During this period not a single spouse, relative or friend has been convicted under the 1961 Suicide Act for helping them.

A handful who have admitted to travelling to Dignitas have been arrested, including the parents of Dan James, from Worcester.

This usually happens after the police receive a complaint.

Last night a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Issues around assisted suicide and euthanasia have always been dealt with as a matter of conscience.

"There have been a number of Private Members Bills related to this issue in recent years (including the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill) and the Government's stance has been to remain neutral and to listen to the debate."

The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day for emotional support by calling 08457 90 90 90.

adam.aspinall@sundaymercury.net

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Doctor Roger Kusch with his modified perfusor machine and left, tragic Midland rugby player Dan James
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2008
Words:782
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