Activist screens unclassified suicide film in public

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A film teaching people how to kill themselves has been shown for the first time in New Zealand, despite being banned in Australia.

Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke played the short film - in which an elderly woman teaches people how to use an oven bag to end their lives - at a public meeting yesterday in Dunedin.

The film is one of a series of three called Doing it with Betty, which describe steps to commit suicide using helium and a plastic bag. The film is not yet classified.

Last night, Dr Nitschke said he had shown the films in public in Australia without rebuke since the change in government, but had only ever shown stills from the film in New Zealand.

The film was available online. He said common sense dictated it should be allowed to be shown publicly.

In February, he told the Herald he had sought advice from Chief Censor Bill Hastings on screening it. Mr Hastings said he had offered advice on the grounds required for the films to be shown without a classification.

A spokesman for the Office of Film and Literature Classification said then that the only exemption was if people brought in a film to show friends.

"But if he wants to show it to the public he would have to get them classified."

There was a narrow band of exemptions for films shown to the public, including documentaries and natural history films. "But if they have material in them which give them an age restriction or mean they would be banned you can't claim that exemption."

Mr Hastings said it was for Dr Nitschke to decide whether the films were exempt, but he risked prosecution if they were shown and found to have required classification first.

A failure to abide by classification laws could lead to a fine of up to $3000 for individuals or $10,000 for an organisation.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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