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Kiwi veterinarians angry Over Doctor's Advice

The New Zealand Veterinary Association is on war path against Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke for his advise to use vets to get deadly drugs//.

Dr Nitschke told more than 50 people at a Wellington meeting on Wednesday that one option for those wanting to die was to approach a "friendly vet" for the barbiturate Nembutal.

New Zealand Veterinary Association chief executive Murray Gibb said such advice was "highly irresponsible". "I'm disappointed to hear to a medical professional making light of it. If a veterinarian were to dispense these products they would be hung out to dry, very, very quickly. These drugs are dangerous," Mr Gibb said.

Mr Gibb said it was illegal for vets to dispense such barbiturates for humans and they would probably face disciplinary action by the veterinary council as well as prosecution.

The barbiturates prescribed to put animals down are the same as those used for euthanasia in countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Dr Nitschke told a mainly elderly audience that New Zealand vets could easily obtain the drug, but they would be taking a big risk supplying it.

Nembutal is registered as a prescription-only medicine in New Zealand. Medical Association chairman Ross Boswell said the drug was "rarely, if ever" dished out by doctors and most chemists would not stock it.

Suicide Pill

An earlier workshop on Wednesday by Dr Nitschke paved the way for the first "peaceful pill" – a suicide pill promoted by his Exit group – to be made in New Zealand. With support from more than half of the 30 people who attended the workshop, New Zealand could have its first such pill this year, he said.

The suicide pill – which mimics barbiturates like Nembutal –kills within seconds and was successfully made in Australia in October by 20 Exit members.

Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is illegal in Australia and New Zealand. Exit "facil itated" groups wanting to make the drug and tested the final product, but were not involved in its manufacture.

Dr Boswell said barbiturates were prescribed by New Zealand doctors for sedative use some years ago, but they were addictive and dangerous if over-used and had been replaced. High-profile overdoses on such drugs include that of Marilyn Monroe.

If a doctor prescribed the drug to someone who overdosed, they, along with the supplier, could be charged over the death, Dr Boswell said. "It's unethical for a doctor to knowingly and intentionally take someone's life."

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