Chronically ill man 'raided' over euthanasia drugs
THE Australian Federal Police has been accused of 'harassing' elderly people and the terminally ill over their potential purchase of euthanasia drugs overseas.
Late last Friday night a wheelchair-confined Tweed Heads man was one of at least seven people to be doorknocked by local police across NSW, Victoria and Queensland over the weekend, following a tip-off from the AFP that they were suspected of buying the life-ending drug Nembutal over the internet.
Speaking anonymously, "Tony" said his carer awoke at 10.30pm to find "torches being shone through the windows".
Tony said he immediately suspected his wife, who is currently away visiting a relative in Victoria, or his children may have had a serious accident.
But instead the police officers asked to come inside, and inquired if he recently tried to order Nembutal, also known as the "peaceful pill".
"They asked me did I have a terminal illness and what was my state of mind," he said.
The 59-year-old father of three has a complex of immune and nerve disorders which have left him permanently confined to a wheelchair and unable to lead a normal life.
As a result of one of his conditions, small fibre neuropathy, which is slowly killing his nerves, everything he touches or touches him induces incredible pain.
He can barely sign his signature, and has to wear a sign on his back when he goes out saying "don't touch me".
The health problems came out of the blue in his early 50s.
"Anyone who cares for me, who moves me or touches me is on edge," he said.
"It's like torture every day.
"It's not going to be long before I'm going to be totally debilitated and I've got to be prepared. It's just getting too hard."
He said his wife and three adult children understood his decision to research how to end his life peacefully, which included joining the Dr Philip Nitschke-inspired group Exit International.
He said he asked the police why they had to come so late in the night.
"They said it was just their job, and it's the order they come."
Tony said had struggled to sleep and was suffering anxiety attacks since the incident and was worried about police harassment.
He said he simply wanted to be left alone.
Exit International Gold Coast coordinator Elaine Arch-Rowe said she had been notified about six other "raids" which took place across Victoria, NSW, and Queensland on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
One visit occurred at a retirement village on the Gold Coast, while an 85-year-old Gold Coast man was doorknocked by police at midnight on Friday.
"It's really harassing old people, they were shining torches in the windows, and rifling through drawers," Robina based Ms Arch-Rowe told The Northern Star.
"They even asked them could they come in and look at their computer."
In response to an inquiry, an Australian Federal Police spokesman said once the agency "became aware of potential importations of a restricted substance, the AFP acted in a coordination role, and requested assistance from State and Territory police to conduct visits to individuals potentially involved in importing the substance.
"The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has not conducted warrants in relation to this matter.
"These visits were focused on ensuring the health and welfare of the individuals."
NSW Police would not comment on the matter.
Ms Arch-Rowe said she knew of a similar instance in Western Australia in 2016 when 16 people had been "raided" by police over similar allegations. Three were ultimately brought before the courts, and issued with fines but no conviction was recorded.
She said the biggest issue was police waking sick and elderly people up at night and treating them as though they were part an organised criminal gang.
"The police could have done this during the day," she said.
"Why are people wasting their time on elderly people who are making the decision for themselves to end their lives... it's almost treating them as though they are in a drug dealing ring."
"The police should be busy on a Saturday night.
"It's really harassing old people."
In a statement, the Greens MP David Shoebridge also said the police action was inappropriate.
"It's hard to imagine something more disproportionate than night time raids on retirement villages to find elderly people who are in extreme pain or suffering who might be contemplating ending their lives," he said.
"If the police have real reasons to suspect breaches of the law they can attend properties in daytime, with appropriate warrants to make their inquiries.
"As a society we are becoming more aware of elder abuse, and it is concerning that police resources have been used to raid a retirement village.
"We are calling on the Police Commissioner to urgently review any and all NSW Police involvement in these events," Mr Shoebridge said.
Ms Arch-Rowe said Exit International was not directly assisting anyone with suicide, but offered a supportive environment for the terminally ill to discuss the issues and learn about end-of-life choices.
"All the information is (already) readily available online."
The group recently held a sold-out meeting in Lismore and plans to have regular meetings there every three months.