Prominent Australian right-to-die campaigner Philip Nitschke on Friday said the shutdown of black market website Silk Road will have a devastating impact on people who use it to obtain euthanasia drugs.
US authorities on Wednesday busted the online bazaar for drugs, hitmen, hacker tools and more, arresting the suspected mastermind Ross William Ulbricht, also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts”, in San Francisco.
Nitschke, the head of Exit International who has campaigned on euthanasia issues for more than a decade, said a lot of people used the market place to source reliable quantities of the premier end-of-life drug Nembutal.
“Our elderly members appreciated the comfort that came from knowing that their transactions were private,” he told Agence France-Presse, adding that he was aware of at least 20 people who bought Nembutal through the site.
Prosecutors claim that Silk Road has been used by thousands of drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilos of illegal wares to more than 100,000 buyers and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten profits.
To accomplish this, Silk Road used a Tor computer network designed to make it almost impossible to locate computers used to host or access websites.
It also added a Bitcoin “tumbler” to the payment system to foil efforts to trace digital currency back to buyers, according to the criminal complaint.
“Although they knew that importing a small amount of Nembutal for possible use at some future date was illegal, many still felt it was a risk worth taking,” Nitschke said.
“The removal of the site will now mean that other less secure avenues will be pursued.”
Exit International, an information and advocacy organization for assisted suicide, publishes the addresses of several other alternative sources for Nembutal—mostly chemical manufacturing companies in China.
“The problem with buying like this is that it is not anonymous and people run the risk of the drug being intercepted and getting a visit from the police,” Nitschke said, pointing to an 80-year-old woman who suffered this fate as recently as Thursday.
Assisted suicide, or euthanasia, is illegal in most countries around the world and is banned in Australia, although it was legal for a time in the Northern Territory before the law was overturned in the 1990s.
When it was legal in the Northern Territory, Nitschke became the first doctor in the world to administer a legal, voluntary, lethal injection to end a life, and he went on to do the same for three other people. AFP