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Nembutal, the drug of choice for executing prisoners in many American states and for assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington state, has dried up because its European manufacturer, the Danish company Lundbeck, refuses to supply it for use in executions. This has had an unintended consequence: patients in Oregon who want physician-assisted suicide cannot get it.

In a recent execution, Oklahoma tried a three-drug cocktail as a substitute for Nembutal (also called pentobarbital or sodium thiopental) last month, but the prisoner appeared to die in great pain. A second-best drug, secobarbital, costs between US$1,500 and $2,300—more than five times pentobarbital and it is still hard to obtain.

The assisted suicide lobby, therefore, has turned to other solutions. Compassion & Choices (the rebranded Hemlock Society) has asked the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to allow a pharmacy to manufacture the drug from raw materials.

Pentobarbital (also known as Nembutal) remains the most efficient drug for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
But it must be administered carefully and in the right dosage.

4 Responses to “Shortage of lethal medications hampers legal assisted suicide”

  1. AJR2013 says:

    Dear Sir,

    Is it still possible to purchase Nembutal, or another veterinarian grade barbiturate, in Tiajuana? I recently relocated to San Diego and would like to travel there soon.

    Thank you.

  2. ergo says:

    Re Tijuana: It seems the market for veterinary Nembutal there has dried up. Two friends went there three weeks ago and came away empty handed. Store owners said that there were now too many regulations and officials watching for them to do any business in this medicine. It may be possible to make purchases at veterinary stores deeper into Mexico, but that’s a lot of trouble.

  3. AJR2013 says:

    Where may I contact a reliable online seller? Do any exist?

    AMSWER: Every one we’ve heard of turn out to be scams. Many hundreds of dollars have been lost, so people tell me. It’s a pity.

  4. bombaygirl says:

    Nembutal used to be available in India till recently, but now vets have told me they are no longer available, even for the use of wildlife. Though no one is exactly sure, some say they are banned, some say they are out of stock, and the ones available on some trade site are unreachable.

    There is another drug used for suicide in India, but has also been regulated after a spate of suicides were reported. The name is celphos. Though available purely for farm rodent purpose its sale is highly regulated. I asked few farmers but they were scared to give it.

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