Judi Taylor's encounter with Exit International

TRANSCRIPT:

- Okay, firstly, I'd like to just thank Julie for inviting me to come and speak today. It's a fairly gruelling story, but it needs to be told. There really isn't any other way to start this than just bowl straight on into it. Just have to take a breath. Yeah, my 26-year-old son died from assisted suicide five years ago. And I'm from Melbourne, Victoria. He was also from Melbourne, Victoria.

This is illegal in our country, and it's illegal in lots of other countries, but this is how it happened.

Firstly, I'd like to tell you how that happened. How would a 26-year-old die from assisted suicide? He was not terminally ill. He wasn't ill at all. He was very well and fit, and more than likely suffered with depression.

The second part of the story is really to tell you what happened in the aftermath. And the last time that I spoke, and I spoke down in Adelaide a couple of years back, I hadn't got to that part. But I think you'll find that part pretty interesting, too.

So how did all this happen? Philip Nitschke, Exit International. And you've heard Marie talk about that a little bit earlier. Well, pretty much the same thing happened to my son, the same, but different. If you don't really know much about Philip Nitschke, here's a little snapshot.

Now I'm pretty sure when this happened to us, happened to my family five years ago, I don't think I'd ever heard of Exit International, and I don't even know if I'd heard of Philip Nitschke, to be honest. But I certainly know a lot about him now.

So he started off in the Northern Territory in the late '90s. He had a very brief stint there when assisted suicide had been made legal. And off he set, and I think there was about four or five assisted suicides. It was only Nitschke, only him that was doing it. And then it was overturned six or seven months later or something by the federal government. And one of the reasons it was overturned was that Nitschke wasn't following the parameters. He wasn't following the protocols. He wasn't following the laws. Just doing his own thing. But anyway, so that was overturned.

But not to be put off, he then wrote a book, and that book was called "Peaceful Pill". And that was like a do-it-yourself suicide manual which he was then going to sell to all the suicidal people. That was banned in Australia for obvious reasons. So that never even got out to the book shops, so he must've been disappointed about that. But then Nitschke just thought, well, I'll just put it all online, and then no one can stop me from selling it. So that went online. He formed his own business which was Exit International, and this is basically a suicide business, and it comes with this book now which is an e-book, "The Peaceful Pill".

So there, that's Philip Nitschke and that's Exit. He's always changing. He's always adapting to whatever the technology is or whatever's going, so he's a very adaptable fellow, that's for sure.

To join Exit, there's two ways. You can either join going to one of his workshops, which are held regularly in every state across Australia, as they are in Canada, in Ireland, in Scotland. In all sorts of places across Europe he also does workshops. So you can go to those workshops, pay $100, and you'll get little demonstrations about how to put a bag on your head, or you'll have a discussion about the drug of choice, which is the one that he promotes, and all that sort of thing. So go to the workshop, or you can join online.

So my son, Lucas, actually joined online. He was living in Germany at the time. He'd left home. He'd finished his university degree. He was travelling around doing a bit of translating, teaching a bit of English. He spoke four languages, so he seemed to be having quite a good time. He went to South Korea, worked there for a bit. Then he went over to Europe, back to Berlin where he knew a few people. But he found that the jobs that he was getting were just casual and because he wasn't a EU holder, it wasn't really as lucrative as what he'd hoped. And this is what he told me, because we were in contact all the time through Skype, email, all the time.

And he said, "I don't think I can stay in Berlin much longer. There just isn't any work, so I'm thinking I'll come back to Australia and do that law degree after all." Said, "Oh, sounds like a good plan. I said, "Well, are you to going to come home first?" And he said, "No, I think I might go to Japan because I've got some contacts there, and I can earn some quick money, and that will help to fund my degree." So it all seemed quite reasonable to me.

We had no idea, absolutely no idea.

So he said he's going off to Japan. Then he said to me, "I'm going on a little holiday first. I've finished up in the apartment where I was living in Berlin. Might go to the Czech Republic, Poland. Haven't seen that, well, and I want to do a few things around Europe."

Off he went supposedly. Then we didn't hear anything for a week, for two weeks, for three weeks, still nothing. So I was starting to get into a bit of a panic by then. I was sending him off emails saying where are you? Usually he would respond. Just nothing and nothing. And my other boys were getting a little bit anxious, too, about where could he be, what's he doing? He always emails home. He's very I.T. savvy. Still nothing.

And then we heard that his suitcase had been found on the railway station in Dresden. So we knew then, yeah, something very serious has happened. And we thought, quite frankly, that he'd been murdered. He's an adult, adult child of mine. He's just left uni. These things happen. So I thought, oh, please no. But I thought maybe that is what's happened to him. But anyway, so then after that turn of events had happened, one of my sons said, "Right, well, we're hacking into all his social media, and we're going to find out where he is. We don't even know what country he's in. So maybe he sent an email to somebody. Maybe he said 'I'm going to Poland and here's my address', or something like that."

So within about five minutes, we were into all his email accounts. Nothing we could find there until we found some emails ... Exit International. And I remember saying to my son, my other son, "What is this? "What's Exit International?"" So we opened it up. My son, Lucas, was saying to them, "I've paid the money, but I can't access the e-book". And they said, "well, perhaps the numbers you put in were incorrect". Do this or do that. And anyway, then it sort of dawned on us what it was about. It doesn't take very long to do a bit of research to find out what that was. It's a suicide site. So then we sort of knew what we were dealing with.

I had him listed as a missing person. That went on for quite some weeks. And I think probably five weeks after that, they found his body in Dresden. So that's what we were dealing with, it's a suicide.

So then we had looked into this Exit International, and we found that on some of the emails that they'd sent him, they said, here is your username and password. So all of this was new to me, 'cause I didn't know anything about it. And now I know an awful lot about it.

So first of all, on this website, you're entitled with your $100 to download that e-book, The Peaceful Pill, which he had on his computer. I've read it, I know what's in it. There's a chapter that tells you how you can deceive your doctor, how to feign a heart attack, how to tell your doctor all the symptoms so that when you're dead in a week, they go, oh, heart attack, yep, yep. She came to see me, heart attack. So there's a chapter all about that. There's another chapter about how to deceive the police. Make sure at the time that you've thrown around some alcohol containers, some cigarettes. Make it look like you had a big night, or something like that. All these things are in the book. There's a whole chapter on Nembutal, which is his drug of choice, and it tells you where exactly to get it. It gives you maps, it gives you shops, it gives you people to contact. It gives you colour photographs in Spanish if you're going to Peru, or you're going to Mexico, or maybe going to Thailand. So here's the picture you need to take. Have a look at the other side of the bottle, these are the quantities. Now if it hasn't got these numbers on it, it's the wrong type. Get this type. So you couldn't get more information than that.

It also gives you information about how to leave the scene. How to make sure that there's other things around, so that no one will be suspicious that this was actually an Exit type death. It's very, very secretive. And as Marie was telling you, it's to protect them, not to protect the family. So Lucas downloaded all of this. He's got that book which tells him everything. But also on the website, you get access to the forum.

Now the forum is a chatroom. You get your username, or you make up your own username and your password, and you're on that forum. I took his username and password, and I got into it. And I read pages and pages and pages and pages of it, and I took copies of it. I was cutting and pasting for about three nights solid. I thought this is an absolute outrage. I couldn't believe it. And the things that they were talking about. There was thousands of people and this chatline. And they're just suicidal people, they're just suicidal. No one is saying on that, oh, I've only got half a lung, I can't get out of bed. No, they're just all suicidal.

Some of them were talking about suicidal fantasies, I think, I'm not a doctor, but looking at it. Some of them were saying, "I'm going to be taking this drug outside my girlfriend's apartment", things like that. One other guy wrote, "I'm going to Mexico to kill myself. Does anyone want to come with me?" And other people would say, "yeah, when you going?" "I'm going in September." "Oh, okay. Anyone else want to come?" Like they were going away on a camping holiday or something.

Another fellow said, "I'm going to go to Mexico. I'm going to go to the undertaker's, going to give him 50 American dollars, and I'm going to say to him, just give me half an hour, I'll tell you where my body will be. It'll all be cleaned up. I've thought about it, it's all sorted." Other people would say, "that's a marvellous idea. I might do that". This is what goes on on the forum. In other parts, they talk about who's got a good idea for a place? And they're all anonymous, so you can say what you like. And people would say, "well, don't go to a hotel room, 'cause I've heard that the staff will come in if you don't answer, and they might take you to hospital. You'll be revived." They're, "oh, okay, I won't be doing that then".

And Lucas actually wrote, well, "I'm going to go to the mountains where no one's going to find me". And someone else said, "oh, why would you bother? Well, there must be a park nearby." And so they were talking about where the best place was and all the rest of it.

But prior to that, I sort of left this bit out, Lucas went to Peru to get his Nembutal, and they said to him, "make sure you book some tours, so it doesn't look suspicious". He did that. "Stay at this hotel", he did that. He got the drugs, and then he was back on the forum, and he said, "now which airports do you think are the best for getting the drugs back in?" They said, "oh, in Europe, probably Munich, because they're so busy there, they don't check." And he said, "okay, I'm going to try Munich, 'cause that'll work for me." And then they said, "okay, you get back to us when you get back to Munich, tell us how it went."

So this great camaraderie and fellowship for all these people who just want to kill themselves. They also have a doctor. So if you've got a medical question, you can call for Dr. Ted. I think that's Nitschke, but I don't know. He'll come online. Lucas spoke to him quite a bit and said, "look, I'm quite a big fellow. How much will I be needing?" And they gave him all that advice. I won't go into too much detail about it, but they gave him all the advice. Lucas said, what happens if you do this? What happens if you feel sick? What happens if you? Yeah, that doctor answered it all.

He was on that forum for five months. I think he was on it, 'cause it's all dated. I've got copies of it all. And he was on that forum every night, every second or third night talking to people. And at the end of that five months, he took his life. In a park, in a shed, just as they discussed on the forum that no one would go there. And that's what he did. He followed it exactly. So that's the story.

The second part of the story is that after all that had actually come out, I thought, well, this has got to be a wake-up call for the nation. So this thing about assisted suicide, anyone can get on this forum. They don't ask any questions. They asked Lucas two questions. The first one was did he have online banking? And the other question they asked him was for his weight. That's all.

So this isn't accidental. You have to keep this in mind. Nitschke will never say, "oh, I don't know how that happened. It's normally for the terminally ill." He's quite open about it. He says that, "Suicide is a right for everybody." And if you take his way, that's even more of a right as long as you pay first. He doesn't say that bit. That was my own editorial on that.

But anyway, I thought, look, a line in the sand has been crossed here, and the police are going to be around. And you know what happened after all of that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No police visits, no investigation, nothing.

So it took, I think for that first year, I was just numb. I just couldn't believe what had unfolded. Then I rang up the Coroners Court, I said, "Why is this taking so long? "I've heard from nobody." And they said, "Oh, what are you talking about? "What death is this?" Hadn't been reported. It is a reportable death that had not been reported.

Oh, well, maybe it was just an oversight. So I said, "Okay, well, I'm reporting it now." No one's reported it. And so off we go, "so what's going to happen? You going to send out some police?" "No. You just send us copies of everything you've got." So you took all these cut and paste, the screenshots from The Peaceful Pill forum, "just send all that in with a little bit of background about what he was doing in Berlin." I did all of that, then nothing, then nothing, then nothing.

So we're coming up to 4 and a half years, still nothing. So then I started to ring the Coroners Court, and I said, "What is going on? Why does it take so long?" They said, "Oh, well, the coroner's," I don't know, "busy or something." You never get to speak to the coroner, and that's fair enough. So because I started ringing, then I got a letter from the coroner's office, and I'd like to share it with you. And I think this was to placate me, because I kept ringing all the time.

This is not a finding. This is from the coroner's solicitor. And in it, it says, "it is clear that Exit International via The Peaceful Pill Handbook and the chat forum played a crucial role in your son's suicide. If not by planting the seed in the first place, certainly by advising him about suicide methods. Accordingly, there is sufficient evidence to support a finding identifying Exit International as having played a role in your son's death."

Little bit further down. It says here, "Exit International is a well-known international not-for-profit organisation that advocates legislation on euthanasia. It is connected to varying degrees with a number of suicides investigated in this jurisdiction. However, the coroner is loathe to add to the organization's notoriety." And then in the same paragraph, "it is noteworthy that in June 2016 following a year-long inquiry into relevant medicolegal considerations, the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Legislative Council delivered its final report into the end-of-life choices." So in a letter about my son's death, they're just giving me a little summary of what the Victorian government is up to, and we're going to introduce some laws on assisted suicide. In the same letter.

It's absolutely, I just couldn't find words to describe for that. I tried to ring the Coroners Court about it, but they said, "No, please stop ringing." Anyway, three weeks later, I get the finding.

Now in that letter, it said, "accordingly, there is sufficient evidence to support a finding identifying Exit International." It says in this one-page finding, "it is tolerably clear that Mr. Taylor sought and received information about the means of suicide through Exit International, and he did so with ease. Nonetheless, the evidence does not allow me to conclude that without this information, he would not otherwise have completed suicide."

So evidence existed in this letter. Three weeks later, it's gone. No evidence.

So having had that happen, I thought, right, where can I go now? I thought, who was above the Coroners Court? Well, it has to be the Attorney-General of Victoria. I wrote him a letter. This is the reply. This came from his chief of staff. And it said, "Dear Mrs. Taylor, thank you for your email. The Attorney-General has asked me to respond on his behalf. Please accept our deepest sympathies." That's just one line. And then it goes on to say about the Attorney-General does not have the power to conduct criminal investigations. Have you tried the police?

This is from the Attorney-General's office. Then I get three paragraphs, like the coroner only gave me one, three paragraphs. "In June 2016, the Victorian Parliament Legal Social Issues Committee tabled the inquiry into the end-of-life choices." Blah, blah, blah, it goes on. "It is about offering Victorians with decision-making capacity who are suffering from a serious and incurable condition and are at the end of their life choice about the way in which they end it", he writes to me. And then there's another couple of paragraphs promoting all of that about what a great job they'll be doing. And then he says, "I hope the above information has helped."

It's so bad, it is humorous. It's very bad.

I've tried to make an appointment with the Attorney-General, but so far, I've had no luck in that. So it seems to me that the coroner, who you would think is impartial, has put in a political bid about the Victorian government in the letter about my son's death, so clearly not impartial. And the Attorney-General, well, we just need to tell you about all the great stuff we're going to do with assisted suicide. Whether he actually read my letter, well, he says, "my deepest sympathies", so he must've. So to explain all of that, I'm just lost for words. Anyway, that is my story, and that's how it went. Thank you.