Justice Minister Promise To Hunt Down And Prosecute More Than 800 Elderly Drug Makers
They are planning to get together in groups of eight or ten in secret locations in at least four Australian states. They are all over 60, and some are as old as 90. They're setting up backyard laboratories and these elderly Australians are planning to cook up illegal drugs, barbiturates in fact, strong enough to kill.
But these old folks want the drugs to kill them. That's why they are ready to defy the law and make the drugs. So when they decide it's time to die, then they take drink down a mouthful of the drug and expire, within minutes, if not seconds.
The drug is called Nembutal, and it's the drug of choice for those who want to practice "self-deliverance" or auto-euthanasia.
More than 100 elderly people are alleged to have illegally smuggled the drug into Australia from Mexico, where it is legally available in veterinarian supplies stores.
In an extraordinary documentary aired on ABC TV last night, a new hidden world of Australia's elderly was revealed - a 'Right To Die' movement that may number in the tens of thousands.
They don't want to go to nursing homes. They don't want to suffer in pain, or humiliation, as their minds and bodies fade and malfunction. They want to have the choice to die at a time of their own making.
There's little doubt that the drug of choice for these elderly people is effective. That's why it's so illegal in Australia, for human consumption anyway. Veterinarians use the drug, or a very similar kind of drug, to euthanize dogs. If it's acceptable to give respectful, quick deaths to dogs, their argument goes, why aren't they worthy of the same?
The documentary carried some terrible stats : More than 1100 elderly people have hung or shot themselves in Australia between 2000 and 2005. Hanging was not an option ruled out by some of those interviewed, but they dreaded what they would leave their children or neighbours to confront when their bodies were found.
The Australian government, backed by powerful Christian-aligned, "Right To Life" lobbyists, have been fighting a running battle against euthanasia in recent years.
The documentary, and an enormous talk back radio and online comment reaction this morning, revealed the extremely controversial subject of helping the terminally ill and elderly to end their lives may become a powerful issue in the upcoming federal election.
We have the right to vote, the right to drink, the right to exercise free will, but we do not have the right to die. Why? It's a question that has sparked flurries of controversy in Australia in recent years, but the issue looks set to become a national debate, with a promise by the federal justice minister that police will investigate and arrest any and all people, including the terminally ill, who attempt to smuggle the drug into Australia, or cook it up in backyard laboratories.
But many of the people interviewed in the documentary, 'Final Call', said they were prepared to go to jail to stand up for their right to die a quick and dignified death.
Once police start arresting 92 year old World War 2 veterans for making their own euthanasia drugs, it will become a story too big to ignore.
From ABC News :
An investigation by ABC TV's Four Corners program suggests there is a growing number of elderly Australians prepared to flout the law to commit suicide.
The euthanasia group Exit Australia has told the program more than 100 people have imported the prohibited sedative nembutal to Australia from Mexico while 100 more are preparing to do the same.
Exit Australia says 800 are interested in making the powerful sedative themselves.
Ninety-six-year-old Fred Short has told Four Corners he was part of a group that set up a backyard laboratory in the New South Wales Southern Highlands.
"I think there should be a legal means for people to choose their own time and place of death and to die with dignity," he said.
He says he is not worried about going to jail.
"It never has worried me - mind you at my time of life I probably wouldn't be there very long," he said.
It is alleged the backyard laboratory has successfully manufactured the drug.
John Edge has told Four Corners he took part in the exercise.
"It was really the blind leading the blind because what chemistry we learned at school has long been forgotten," he said.
Simple. It showed that if you have a bottle of the drug tucked away at home, you never need worry about getting so old and frail that you can't look after yourself anymore. The dread of being locked up in a nursing home disappears. The terror of having to undergo 'life-saving' operations only to face months of gruelling recovery evaporates.
You can beat nature, and God, with a simple twist of a bottlecap, one big swig and then lay down to (presumably) quietly accept your fate. Hopefully, with your family members, or close friends, by your side, or as recent visitors.
One of the most incredible scenes I've watched in either documentaries or fictional films in recent years unfolded the Four Corners report last night : a near-frail old man sits at his dining room table and unpacks a kit he has put together that will, with a flick of a switch, suffocate him.
It appears the man has designed and built the basic machine himself, because there is no legal version of it on the market. He talks about how he has to "test" the machine to make sure it will do what he built it to do. He doesn't want the machine to fail when he decides it's time to go.
Give me a choice, the man said, and I won't have to use the self-suffocation machine. Like every other old, and clearly sane and mentally alert, person in the documentary, this man wanted to get his hands on the drug that would guarantee a far less painful and horrible final exit.
From news.com.au :
Hundreds of elderly Australians planning to end their lives when they can no longer care for themselves, are conspiring to manufacture an illegal euthanasia drug.
The ABC's Four Corners program tonight said about 800 elderly people across Australia are waiting to get involved in making the drug nembutal in backyard laboratories, with at least four to be established soon in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Wollongong.
About 100 other older Australians were engaged in illegally importing the drug to Australia from the Mexican border town of Tijuana, close to the US city of San Diego.
Illegal possession of the prohibited drug carries a maximum penalty of two years' jail.
One of the illegal manufacturers, Bron Norman, said the drug should be available for those who wish to commit suicide when they have outlived their useful life.
"It's outrageous that we've been forced into this position because we can't legally obtain a drug that will give us a peaceful death when we want one," she told the ABC.
"It's not illegal to end your life. Why is it illegal to have the drug that will do it?"
The ABC TV message board discussing the documentary contains hundreds of comments from health professionals and elderly people demanding the laws be changed so those who decide it's time to go can do so, painlessly and effectively.
Some of the stories about the suffering experienced by sick, elderly people in Australian nursing homes are heartbreaking, as are the tales told by hospital staff, who are forced, by law, to subject some terminally ill people to "life-saving" operations they neither want to give, and that their patients do not want to endure.
In the face of hearing directly from those nearing the end of their lives calmly, sanely discussing why they want to die by their own hand, the pro-life lobbyists and activists' arguments of morality sound weak and pointless.
Why should an elderly person who is ready to go, and has no thirst for further life, be forced by lack of an alternative to shoot or hang themselves?
The only reality-based answer is : they shouldn't.
Pathetic arguments about how "Jesus suffered on the Cross" so therefore we must suffer as well, in order to be worthy of eternal life, are an insult to the elderly people of our society, and a fevered distortion of any teachings attributed to Jesus Christ.
As one elderly man in the documentary pointed out, why did his generation fight in World War 2 for the freedoms now enjoyed by all Australians, when he is denied the most important freedom of all : when to decide it's time to live, and when to decide it's time to die?
It's a powerful question, and one that both the Howard federal government, and the Rudd opposition government, are terrified of being forced to answer.
As millions of Baby Boomers move into their senior years, and become one of the most powerful voting blocks, it is a question any future government will no longer be able to avoid answering.
Justice Minister Says Elderly People Who Smuggle Or Make Illegal Death Drug Will Be "Brought Before The Courts"