[Right_to_die] Nembutal by mail, they say

World right-to-die news (nonprofit) right-to-die at lists.opn.org
Fri Mar 13 13:49:34 PDT 2009

Suicide drug of choice in mail

    INSIDE STORY: Julie-Anne Davies | March 14, 2009
Article from:  The Australian

AUSTRALIANS are illegally buying the euthanasia movement's lethal drug 
of choice on the internet from Mexico and receiving it by post without 
being detected by Customs authorities.

The person running the Mexican mail order business told The Weekend 
Australian he had successfully sent eight bottles of the barbiturate 
Nembutal to Australia in recent weeks.

The buyers had learnt about his service from euthanasia advocate Philip 
Nitschke's latest version of his banned book, The Peaceful Pill 
Handbook, published by Exit International.

"I have sent to Australia, like, eight times with success; the Customs 
have never stopped any of my ships," Gerardo Aviles Navarro said in an 
email from Mexico. "I'm very serious; the reason of Exit International 
to make public my email direction is because they know my seriousness."

One bottle of the drug costs $US350 ($540) or $US450 for two bottles, he 

A 60-year-old Melbourne woman in remission from breast cancer said she 
had ordered two bottles of Nembutal online from Mexico a fortnight ago.

"A week or so later a little parcel arrived, hand-delivered by a courier 
company," she said.

"I was doubtful it would actually happen because it seemed too good to 
be true, so when it arrived packed in a perfume box, I couldn't actually 
believe it."

She immediately moved the Nembutal to another location "just in case the 
Feds come knocking at my door".

Dr Nitschke said he did not expect the mail order option to last for 
long. "We heard about this guy who's down south of Mexico and we decided 
to tell people about him in our latest book because he seemed to be 
offering a reliable service and a good product," he said.

"But it won't last once word gets out."

Ordering Nembutal online is the latest example of the risks some 
Australians are prepared to take to get the drug regarded by euthanasia 
proponents as the "holy grail" for those bent on suicide.

Known as "green dream", NEMBUTAL is the drug vets use to euthanise 
animals. It was once prescribed as a sleeping pill to humans, but was 
taken off the market in Australia in 1998.

Body: It is used for legal euthanasia in Europe and the US and was the 
drug used by Dr Nitschke to help four people die in the Northern 
Territory under the world's first euthanasia laws in 1997. The Howard 
government overturned those laws that same year.

Since then, a steady stream of terminally ill but otherwise ordinary 
Australians have taken extraordinary and often illegal measures to end 
their lives.

Dr Nitschke's book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook -- the title of which 
uses a euphemism for Nembutal -- was banned in Australia after a special 
federal law was passed in 2005 making it a crime to use a telephone, 
fax, email or the internet to discuss or research assisted suicide.

That offence carries a $110,000 fine. An Australian Federal Police 
spokesperson said no one had been charged with downloading Dr Nitschke's 

Importing Nembutal into Australia carries a maximum penalty of 25 years' 
imprisonment or a $550,000 fine.

But many are willing to break the law. Dr Nitschke's book is published 
in the US and can be bought on the internet and purchased as an e-book 
by subscription for $75.

The latest version advises on the best new locations to buy Nembutal, 
including Peru, Bolivia, Bangkok and Beijing.

Exit International, the pro-euthanasia organisation set up by Dr 
Nitschke, claims several hundred Australians have made trips to these 

The e-book warns that Tijuana in Mexico, which was the destination of 
choice for many death tourists, as Nembutal seekers are known, is no 
longer safe.

The botched suicide of Australian woman Erin Berg in Tijuana, which was 
revealed in The Australian last year, is blamed for this. The 
39-year-old mother of four died in a Mexican hospital a fortnight after 
drinking Nembutal in a Tijuana hotel room.

Her sisters blamed Dr Nitschke in part for their sister's death, after 
finding she had underlined passages in his first book Killing Me Softly 
relating to Nembutal and obtaining it in Mexico.

As well as details on where to buy Nembutal, The Peaceful Pill Handbook 
has information on how to buy the drug, its price, photographs of local 
brands, how to import it and updated information on how to take it to 
achieve a "peaceful death".

Within Australia, there is a thriving underground in the supply of 
Nembutal, according to people who have obtained it domestically. They 
either pay for someone to smuggle it back into the country for them or 
are given a bottle of the drug that has gone unused by its original 
owner, usually someone who has died without resorting to suicide.

A member of Exit International who returned this week from a 
fact-finding mission to Mexico said there were many cities where the 
drug could easily be bought.

"People can take a cruise from San Diego and stop off at a Mexican port 
and do their shopping or they can go on an organised shopping trip. They 
just need to take the photos of the product and if possible find a taxi 
driver or street hawker who can speak some English," the member said.

Several other people told of clandestine trips to Mexico to buy 
Nembutal. All had succeeded in getting the drug across both the US and 
Australian borders without detection.

"Coming back into Australia, I made sure I was on my own and I bought 
myself a walking stick and so I limped along and found that Customs 
people both here and in America were very helpful. It worked a treat," 
one 85-year-old woman said.

Most were healthy but said they wanted a guarantee that if they did 
become terminally ill, they would have control over the way their life 

"I'm 69 and have many friends who have elderly parents and none of them 
have done their homework on something that I regard as fundamental," 
another woman said. "Everyone talks about birth but not too many are 
prepared to sort out their end-of-life care until it's too late."

All were keen to have their Nembutal tested to check its efficacy, 
something Exit International will begin doing this year.

Don Flounders, a 79-year-old man dying from mesothelioma, had his home 
raided by the Australian Federal Police last year after publicly 
admitting he and his wife, Iris, 85, had bought three bottles of 
Nembutal in a pet shop in Tijuana and smuggled them to Australia. They 
gave one of the bottles to a friend who was dying of bone cancer and hid 
the rest.

"Five days after our return, a posse of police arrived at our house with 
a search warrant," Mr Flounders said. "The chief bloke asked me if I had 
any Nembutal on the premises and I looked him straight in the eye and 
said no."

One woman who was prepared to be named said she aborted her planned day 
trip from San Diego to Tijuana to buy Nembutal last October because she 
didn't want to risk arrest by Mexican police.

Valda Manning, who is 79 and healthy, said she now hoped to travel to 
one of the other Mexican border cities recommended by Exit International 
to buy the drug.

"I'll be 80 this year and have a very happy, full life," Mrs Manning 
said. "I'm not depressed or paranoid. It's just my belief I should have 
this choice if I develop a terminal illness."

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