Euthanasia drugs will be imported, legally or illegally - EXIT International

  • 12/05/2018

Importing sedatives illegally to help people die is more common than most realise, a pro-euthanasia group has claimed.

Susan Austen, 67, was fined $7500 for obtaining pentobarbitone earlier this week, but acquitted on a charge of assisting a suicide.

EXIT International legal expert Tasha Russell says more than 50 people have also been caught importing it so far.

"People are trying to bring it in - and that's only the people that they've confiscated it from," she told Newshub. "That doesn't include people who are getting it through, and they certainly do.

"You've got it going on in the background, whether you want to realise that or not."

She says the fine is hefty compared to equivalent punishments dished out overseas.

"What her lawyers were putting across to the judge was four cases in Australia, because there was no case law in New Zealand. In the four cases [in Australia], no one received a conviction - they got a fine. They were much smaller fines."

Austen's fine relates to the death of 77-year-old Annemarie Treadwell two years ago.

Ms Russell, from EXIT International, says euthanasia isn't going to just disappear.

"There is a push there for it to happen, and you can acknowledge it or you can just continue to ignore that it's going on."

Austen is the Wellington coordinator of EXIT International.

Pentobarbitone is a Class C drug under New Zealand law, although veterinarians can lawfully use it to euthanise animals.

The End of Life Choice Bill, which would legalise assisted dying in particular circumstances, is currently before a Parliamentary select committee.