Nitschke promotes hacking class to beat filter


Pro-choice euthanasia information and lobbying group Exit International has started holding what it describes as ‘hacking masterclasses’ to show seniors how they can circumvent the Federal Government’s planned internet filter and access practical information on euthanasia.

Exit International was founded by controversial Australian doctor Philip Nitschke and conducts a number of activities aimed at providing information around what it sees as seriously ill patients’ right to end their own life.

In a statement on its site, the group outlined the classes, saying they would be led by “one of the country’s leading young IT gurus” — Newcastle’s David Campbell. The first event was held on April 1.

“The masterclass was prompted by the reported inclusion of Exit International websites ( on the Government’s secret blacklist of banned websites. The Clean Feed policy will see older Australians denied access to current end of life information,” the site states.

“To ensure that elderly Australians can continue to receive this important information after the Federal Government’s censorship takes effect, the masterclass is intended to provide plain language targeted for Seniors.”

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said discussion about euthanasia was not content that would be deemed Refused Classification under the proposed filtering scheme.

However, they noted that Nitscke’s book The Peaceful Pill was found to be Refused Classification because “it provided detailed instruction in crimes relating to the possession, manufacture and importation of barbiturates”.

“As a result this book cannot be bought or sold in Australia and it cannot be brought into Australia. The URL therefore for accessing an electronic version of the book was classified as Refused Classification,” they added.

However, Conroy’s spokesperson also noted that under the Federal Government’s policy it would not be an offence to circumvent the filtering measures or to show someone how to circumvent them — which testing laboratory Enex had noted was a possibility for technically competent people, in its report on filtering technologies handed down last year.

The news comes as the Opposition has again delayed promoting a view for or against the filter legislation, which has not yet entered Federal Parliament.

On the ABC’s Q&A TV show last night, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said while he wanted to see protections in place for children using the he didn’t want to see the net destroyed by a filtering system which didn’t work.

Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith has previously stated the Opposition would wait until it saw the actual filter legislation before pushing its own concrete view on the matter.

Image credit: Exit International


  1. I’d go to that type of class, not because I’m interested in euthanasia but because I’m not tech savvy when it comes to the circumvention stuff and that’s something I’d like to know about.

    • I would be personally interested to see how they would teach the workaround for the filter, especially given the likely average age of the audience. However, I have a feeling it would be quite specific to Exit International and not a general solution.

      On a personal note though, I find the idea of these classes somewhat disturbing … the euthanasia angle etc. I don’t disagree with the need to have the option … but classes is such a disturbing idea.

  2. Why do you find the classes disturbing? Do you think the elderly or unwell don’t have the right to the same information as everyone else? I admire Exit’s forethought. Would you be more comfy if only the young and healthy were free of censorship?

    • hey Lola,

      I’m a journalist — I don’t think anything should ever be censored :) What makes me feel uncomfortable about Exit International is the group nature of their classes.

      Of course this information should be available to individuals, and they should have the option of euthanasia in really extreme situations.

      But when you put it in a group context it starts to become a bit creepy — peer pressure is a powerful thing, and I wouldn’t want to have that be the push which nudges someone over the line into a decision like this.

      Then too, I am a Zen Buddhist and have seen what benefits meditation can bring to even strong and ongoing pain. I am always going to feel mildly uncomfortable with euthanasia personally.

      • I don’t doubt the efficacy of meditation to deal with some pain, but when you’re bedridden in the last weeks and days of terminal cancer, trust me, it’s a whole different ballgame.

        There’s one thing having eg chronic back pain but being generally quite healthy and finding alternative ways to deal with it. But dying is a very specific process, and it’s not as quick or easy as many people seem to think.

        The saddest thing about all this is that people have to go to clandestine groups to learn about their options. Were euthanasia handled by GPs and hospitals and official government services, it would be much safer and the issue of peer-pressure/relative pressure would be better handled. Plus people could learn about possible alternatives – even new treatments in the case of certain chronic and degenerative conditions – which driven to despair and secrecy, they might not otherwise find out about.

        • I don’t disagree that the information should be freely available, but I just don’t think people should be encouraged to access it in the same way, say, as they would be encouraged to access information about how to quit smoking. It should be an avenue of absolute last resort — unless you’re an ancient Japanese samurai, in which case it might be a constant daily opportunity ;)

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