A New Version of Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide has returned to the news, but in the form of a planned drug overdose via an illegal sleep aid called Nembutal.

It has been just over a year since the infamous

(aka, “Dr. Death”) was released from prison for his involvement in assisted suicide. Why am I bringing up news from last year? Well, assisted suicide is re-entering the news, but in the form of a planned drug overdose. People are

to Mexico and Switzerland to buy a bottle of the illegal sleep aid

(pentobarbital), which was once available in the US and was part of the “fatal cocktails that killed Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland in the 1960s.” Those who travel to get Nembutal have become known as “death tourists.”

, a pro-euthanasia group has “helped nearly 300 people—mostly Australians, New Zealanders and a handful of Americans—to find what is being called ‘

’ in pet pharmacies in Mexico” since 2001.

Dr. Jack KevorkiantravelingNembutalExit Internationaldeath in a bottle

In the article, 78-year-old Australian-born Don Flounders, who has been diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma, says he intends to drink Nembutal when he’s ready. While in Mexico, he and his wife “bought several 100 milliliter bottles of the sterile, liquid pentobarbital for under $50 each,” enough for themselves and their friend Anjy Belecciu, who is dying of metastasized breast cancer. Although Flounders’ wife of 57 years does not have a terminal illness, there’s a chance she might take “death in a bottle” with Flounders.

One thing that I was surprised to read in the article was that Australian death tourists don’t understand why more Americans do not go into Mexico and buy Nembutal. Dr. Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “In the U.S., at least the middle and upper classes who can afford to travel usually work out some sort of behind-the-scenes arrangement with their doctor.”

News like this that always gets me thinking about what I would do if in such a situation. I can’t say that I’m for or against assisted suicide, and I’m hoping that I never have to make that decision.