Dodgy scam site uses Kiwi pro-euthanasia protest imagery to sell bogus suicide drugs
Pro-euthanasia lobby group Exit International is warning its members off a scam website, based in the Ukraine, which is fleecing the elderly by selling the popular and costly suicide drug Nembutal, which never arrives.
Those falling for the scam are mostly elderly people, many in poor health and with little internet savvy.
They are being gouged about $1100 - the price of a 25gm dose of the drug - and are too frightened to go to the authorities to complain about buying an illegal substance.
Exit founder Philip Nitschke said about three of its members were in contact every week about the ripoff as the market for the lethal Class C controlled drug, used in assisted suicide, grows worldwide.
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The Painless Path website uses a Stuff picture of supporters protesting outside the assisted suicide trial of Wellington euthanasia advocate Susan Austen.
Austen, 66, a Lower Hutt teacher, was charged in October 2016 with having twice imported pentobarbitone, more commonly known by its trade name Nembutal. In high doses, it causes death by respiratory arrest.
Nitschke was gobsmacked the site offered cheaper rates for teenagers and said the use of a news photo featuring euthanasia lobbyists in genuine protest was perfect for a scam site as it appeared credible and featured people from an older demographic.
Exit's handbook lists a handful of legitimate sites in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and China but Nitschke says there are nearly 100 scam sites, a number that is growing in parallel with the rising global demand for the drug as an end-of-life option.
"Luckily they don't sell anything, just take your money. We'll be alerting members ... the steady growth in internet scams over the past decade is an indication of the growing global market in this drug ," he said.
The handbook had been updated to list bogus sites.
Nitschke said sites like Painless Path relied on those who fell for the scam being too frightened or sick to report it to the authorities.
"This is a vulnerable group who can hardly go to authorities saying I lost money buying this illegal drug. They'd be admitting to breaking the law."
The maximum penalty for importing a Class C drug is eight years' imprisonment.