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Original article: April 08, 2007

For many years there has been an urban myth that there exists a little red pill which, when swallowed, brings instant death, thus wonderfully relieving the sufferer from further pain. I have had requests for it scores of times from folk who genuinely believed such a fatal capsule was freely available.

It has been called the Drion Pill (after a Dutch judge of that name who pushed the idea in the 1990's), the Last-Will-Pill and –- much more popularly recently -- the Peaceful Pill.

But this magic pill does not exist, unless you exclude a cyanide capsule which only secret services are able to obtain. (Even then it is a painful -- if fast -- death which you would not want family to observe). Puffer fish and some Australian snails are equally lethal, in seconds, but they do not of course come in pill form.

Over the years I have discussed the peaceful pill in my books Final Exit (pages 110 and 139) and in 'The Good Euthanasia Guide' (page 21) (out-of-print). As such a lethal pill does not yet exist, the term has come to mean any form of painless, quick, dignified death which the patient wishes to have. It is a metaphor, not an object.

The most deadly substance on the market is pentobarbital (often called Nembutal commercially) that is a barbiturate and powerful sleep-aid. It is usually the substance used in medical euthanasia where that action is legal. Worldwide, it is always on prescription, which few doctors will write because its connection with suicide is notorious. Even with pentobarbital’s toxicity, it is still necessary to take in nine grams of it to ensure certain death – hardly pill popping!

The term has come back into attention with the publication of Dr. Philip Nitschke’s new book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook. He is careful to point out that this is a handbook outlining numerous methods of ending one’s life, not a single way out.

Thus the hunt for the deadly elixir or pill continues. So read the latest edition of ‘Final Exit’ paperback or Final Exit in eBook format and view the Final Exit video on DVD for your options. Currently, the favored means of exit in America is the careful inhalation of helium gas, which the book/eBook outlines with illustrations and Final Exit on DVD shows the process step-by-step.

But what we really need is legal, medical, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide in all countries so that there is no need for these improvised pills and gases.

Derek Humphry, president
Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)

Republication of this article permitted if the source ( and author of article is quoted.

The author, Derek Humphry, has thirty years experience in the euthanasia field. He started the Hemlock Society in 1980 and also the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organiazation in 1993. He was president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies 1988-90. Earlier Derek was a veteran investigative reporter for the London Sunday Times and the Los Angeles Times before taking up the right-to-die campaign.

He wrote “Final Exit ” and four other books on this issue, including Let Me Die Before I Wake, his first `how-to' book which has sold thousands of copies since 1981.