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Exit International forum coached young man to his death, mother claims
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An online forum run by euthanasia group Exit International coached a young Melbourne man to his death, his mother has claimed.
Lucas Taylor, 26, committed suicide by taking a euthanasia drug while in Germany two years ago.
His mother Judi Taylor has told the ABC that people in an online forum called PeacefulPill, run by Exit International, needlessly facilitated her son's suicide.
"I think he was coached to his death. He was on this forum a lot and it wasn't miserable depressed chatter," she said.
"It was very lively chatter about the different methods and what they would do, and this will only take 10 minutes, don't do that – that will take a little bit longer."
Ms Taylor said her son, who was physically healthy, travelled to Peru to buy Nembutal, a popular euthanasia drug known as the peaceful pill, and was advised by the forum how to test its purity.
"I think he really just got swept up in it when probably what Lucas needed was some medical care, he didn't need that website," she said.
This week the founder of Exit International, Philip Nitschke, was suspended by the Medical Board of Australia who said he presented "a serious risk to public health and safety".
The board made the decision after Dr Nitschke admitted supporting 45-year-old Perth man Nigel Brayley in his decision to commit suicide, despite knowing he was not terminally ill.
Dr Nitschke called it a "politically motivated deregistration", and said it was "clearly stupid" to claim he was a risk to public safety.
He said Mr Taylor had lied to gain access to the forum, claiming he was 65 years old.
(Mr Taylor) was warned for breaching the rules…There's not much you can do if people lie.
"People who lose someone are always looking for people to blame, which is understandable," he said.
"(Mr Taylor) was warned for breaching the rules, and they threatened to throw him out. There's not much you can do if people lie.
"He was involved in exchanges where he was giving advice to other people. The site moderators became aware of it and warned him."
He said he did not believe Mr Taylor was coached, and that the 26-year-old's situation could have been a lot worse if he had been provided incorrect information about the drug.
"If he got the wrong advice she may have had a brain-dead dependent on her hands," Dr Nitschke said.
"That would not be in anyone's interest."
In a forum excerpt provided to the ABC by Ms Taylor, her son, who went by the online handle of Vegemite123, asked about the effects fasting would have on the potency of Nembutal.
"If someone was to refuse food and water for a few days before taking the Nembutal would this increase the effectiveness of the Nembutal and speed up the process?" he wrote.
"If you plan to take Nembutal as someone with a terminal illness but with an otherwise strong healthy body, you need more of it than someone close to death."
A number of people in the forum took part in the discussion, including someone known as Dr Ted, who warned about the risk of vomiting.
"Take the right amount and it won't matter how healthy you were….so why torture yourself?" Dr Ted responded.
The forum members also make reference to a handbook, which appeared to provide details about the use of Nembutal including food and drink intake before taking the drug.
Ms Taylor said she was absolutely horrified by the content on the forum.
"He followed all their advice, their tips. Not one of them were given by Dr Nitschke, but some of them were given by a doctor on the site and the rest by others," she said.
"To think that all that information was so easily accessed, because I had never even heard of Exit International up until this point, and it was so easily accessible by anyone."
Ms Taylor said she believed Lucas's mental health was good at the time, and she did not think he was depressed.
"He was travelling overseas for a year or two. He'd taught in schools in South Korea, he'd always been a very independent person," she said.
"I used to speak to him on Skype quite regularly and through email and we never picked up a thing (indicating) that he wasn't travelling well or was depressed, or that he had decided there was no other option other than this one."
Ms Taylor said the website needed to be taken down, and a national inquiry should be held into Exit International and Dr Nitschke.
"He's hardly a doctor at all. He's not in the business of helping people or saving their lives. His business is just to help people die," she said.
"He has no real consideration for their story or their life or what was going on. If they want his service, he will provide it."
But Mr Nitschke dismissed the idea of closing it down, saying that without it there would be a lack of information for people who were genuine.
"That wouldn't be in anyone's interest," he said.
"If you're going to argue that the forum should be shut down as a result of something like this, you'd have a world of people making silly mistakes."
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