Silk Road closure reportedly cuts off supply of drug for assisted suicides

Patients seeking the euthanasia drug Nembutal must now go to Chinese chemical companies


The shutdown of Silk Road, the secret online marketplace for illegal drugs and other goods, may be having a grim side effect. The site was used by junkies and Timothy Leary types, but a doctor in Australia claims it was also an important resource for chronically ill patients pursuing euthanasia, or assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is illegal in many countries, but there are still doctors and advocates who will help distressed patients seeking voluntary death. Usually these patients are in so much pain, or their quality of life is so diminished, that they no longer want to live and prefer to exit on their own terms. Such patients were using Silk Road to purchase the lethal drug Nembutal and download copies of an ebook called The Peaceful Pill Handbook, says Australian right-to-die advocate Philip Nitschke. A search of the Silk Road forums confirmed that vendors were advertising Nembutal, which also has recreational uses.

The ebook, a euthanasia how-to guide that has been banned in New Zealand and Australia, is available on Amazon. The drug, however, is harder to get. Dr. Nitschke told The Age that he knew of at least 20 people who used Silk Road to clandestinely purchase Nembutal, the brand name for the lethal injection drug pentobarbital that induces respiratory failure. Patients seeking Nembutal will now have to buy it from Chinese chemical makers or wait for the drug to pop up on one of the newer virtual black markets. "The removal of the site will now mean that other less secure avenues will be pursued," Dr. Nitschke says.

More from The Verge

Back to top ^
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.