A reverend has defended his church’s decision to allow a euthanasia expert dubbed Dr Death to hold a suicide workshop.

The controversial Philip Nitschke is due to speak at the Brighthelm Centre in Brighton next month (may).

The Australian doctor, who is from pro-euthanasia group Exit International, was banned from speaking at the Langham Hotel in Eastbourne and Brighton Racecourse in October.

At one event he had been planning to demonstrate his devices to aid people who want to die, including an "exit bag", drugs from Mexico, morphine, and "DIY Peaceful Pills".

Reverend David Coleman, from the United Reformed Church, which manages the Brighthelm Centre, said he did not support or condone Dr Nitschke or Exit International but said it believed in people's right to hold a discussion on it.

He said: “We know this is going to be a public meeting and a workshop.

“As a Christian organisation we are not approving of or agreeing with what Dr Nitschke stands for but the organisation has a point to make.

“People need places to meet and to have these discussions carried out.”

But the news has sparked anger from MPs and councillors.

Brighton and Hove City Council cabinet member for older people, Ken Norman, said: "I would strongly urge the Brighthelm Centre to think again before confirming this booking.

"My personal opinion is that whilst I would welcome any honest and open debate on the subject of euthanasia, giving advice on how to end a life is clearly against the law and anyone who actively encourages people to kill themselves should be strongly discouraged.

“It is irresponsible and potentially dangerous to provide information on how to end a life particularly with no control over who receives the information or to where it goes.”

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper said: “I accept the argument about freedom of speech but it has to be within the law.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police warned that agreeing to stage an event could be committing an offence.

He said: “In relation to the legality of holding a meeting to discuss euthanasia, it is difficult to comment as we cannot be certain in advance what will be discussed on the day.

“However, the Suicide Act does state that ‘a person commits an offence if they encourage or assist a suicide’.

“This law would be applicable regardless of whether a meeting was taking place in a public building or a private residence.”

Dr Nitschke said: “I remain frustrated that debate in Britain on Assisted Suicide remains ignorant of lessons learnt in other countries some 13 years ago.”

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