Monday, 11 February 2013

Seizures of euthanasia drugs rise

This article today in The Australian makes me wonder just how much of this stuff is getting into the country! 


SEIZURES of illicit euthanasia drugs have tripled in the past three years as the population ages and several jurisdictions debate whether to allow doctor-assisted suicide.
According to Customs, there were 76 detections of pentobarbitone products such as Nembutal last financial year, compared with 42 the year before and 25 in 2009-10.
The majority were detected in the postal system.
Authorities are still collating the number of pentobarbitone deaths reported in recent years. The latest may have been only a week ago when Perth woman Barbara Harrison, who was 64 and had multiple sclerosis, used Nembutal to end her life.
Between July 2000 and November 2009 there were 51 such deaths in Australia, some involving younger people who had access to the drugs through veterinary clinics or animal laboratories.
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke said he suspected Customs was cracking down on attempts to smuggle the drug from Mexico as he had received emails from people blaming him for drawing attention to its uses.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is investigating two complaints against Dr Nitschke, one for allegedly attempting to facilitate the supply of pentobarbitone, the other, according to a recent letter from the agency, for "marketing a nitrogen delivery system solely used for the purpose of suicide".
Dr Nitschke remains pessimistic about the chances of law reform in Australia, even though Tasmania has proposed a model, South Australia is again debating legislation, and Labor has made it an election issue in Western Australia. Federally, the Greens have also introduced legislation that would enable the Northern Territory to once again allow euthanasia, along with the ACT.
While Dr Nitschke insisted that nitrogen had a variety of uses, he confirmed it had recently been used for home euthanasia and he expected authorities would want to speak to him about those deaths.
Dr Nitschke is also supporting at least two patients as they do the paperwork and assessments required to utilise the Dignitas euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.
One patient, Jay Franklin, is battling local health authorities for access to key documents, and has a condition that may complicate matters.
Another patient, Martin Burgess, is confident of meeting the clinic's requirements. But the 70-year-old from Darwin, who has terminal cancer, is disappointed to have to fly to Europe -- a trip he can afford only thanks to the generosity of his friends -- to end his life because authorities will not allow euthanasia in Australia. He said that once he completed the paperwork he intended to keep on living as long as possible, comforted by the fact he had enjoyed his life and would have Switzerland as a "safety net".
"I heard the story about one bloke who managed to get a hold of the naughty stuff (Nembutal) for when the time came and 10 years later it's still sitting in the fridge," Mr Burgess told The Australian. 
"Knowing he could end it all if it became too much or too painful gave him a new kick, a new lease on life. That might happen to me."

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