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July 15, 2019

Professor Avril Henry & that Infamous Police Welfare Check

It was never supposed to happen like this. A rational suicide was planned, friends (lots of friends) were told along with extended family. She thought she had her affairs in order. No one, but no one, could have predicted what happened next.

At around 9pm on Friday 15 April 2016, Professor Avril Henry had her front door smashed in by the local Exeter Police, who were followed closely by a GP, a psychiatrist and a government social worker. The ‘crisis team’ forcibly entered Avril’s house for a ‘welfare check’.

They said they had been informed by Interpol that Avril had imported Nembutal from Mexico. And they had heard she was planning to end her life. Their job, they said, was to snatch the drug from her and decide if she should be sectioned compulsorily as a psychiatric patient. To keep her from dying.

Avril’s role in this drama? An elderly woman, living alone, in a small Devon village who, with a rapidly deteriorating quality of life, had decided the trip to Switzerland was too arduous. And besides why should she?

Avril wanted to die at home and she wanted to be buried in her orchard.

Being the highly organised person that she was, Avril took matters into her own hands. She got the Peaceful Pill eHandbook and she imported the same drug that she would have been given in Switzerland, sodium pentobarbital. That should have been the end of the matter but it wasn’t. A victimless crime to be sure.

When the police were first asked by the media what they were doing in smashing Avril’s front door down, without even ringing her front bell first, they denied they had ever been at her house.

Only on formal questioning by Avril’s lawyer was the police visit report provided. The report proved the police had attended. It proved Avril was not lying. And yes there had been a forced entry.

Avril Henry & Philip Nitschke

Professor Avril Henry & Dr Philip Nitschke, April 2016

While Avril and her friend Emma said the police took the drugs away with them, the police report states the drugs could not be found. So what is going on?

[Remember – by law, in general, you do not need to let Police into your home if they do not have a warrant. Nor do you need to tell them anything, other than your name & address]

One of the lessons from the circumstances surrounding Professor Henry’s death is the vexed question of who should be told if you are planning a rational suicide.

Avril's door after the police forced entry

Avril’s door after the Police forced entry

In her own words, Avril says she would ‘talk the leg off a table’. She told anyone and everyone of her plans. Far from being ashamed of what she was planning, Avril thought the law an ass. And she thought it cruel. She wanted to make a last stand against it.

However, in telling everyone, including her internet provider company, Avril left herself open to intervention. When she told her ISP that she planned to die that night and would they please disconnect her phone and internet that day, they called for emergency help. This prompted her local GP surgery to call her with a view to dispatching immediate help to her home. Suicide prevention run amok!

As Avril said in a final email to Dr Philip Nitschke, ‘I think I had better skip lunch and get on with it’. And so she did.

Only, and to Exit’s total surprise, Avril Henry had not handed over her full stash of Nembutal when demanded by the Police several nights prior. She had kept some aside. This other stash is what she would take to end her life.

Avril Henry & Philip Nitschke

Avril Henry in conversation at her home with Philip Nitschke

Apart from the needless and senseless terrorising of Avril Henry, the element of remaining concern was the involvement of Interpol in tracing the Nembutal received by Professor Henry. In the same week as Avril Henry experienced the police raid, another UK Exit Member was also the subject of a police raid on her home. Again, the alleged tip-off came from Interpol via the Manchester Police.

More recently (July 2019) another Exit member in Australia has reported a welfare check by the Victorian Police. This elderly gent said he used Bitcoins and Protonmail to import his Nembutal. He refused the Police entry to his home. In doing so he has, presumably, retained his Nembutal bottles.

As is the way with covert police operations, Exit can only guess as to how things work but what is clear is that a Nembutal supplier or a courier company has insecure information.  It is important to remember that while it may be lawful to purchase Nembutal over the counter in various Sth American countries, its importation back to one’s home country is almost always illegal.

So while you cannot blame the authorities for attempting to track down this illegal trade, it is a pity indeed that the same efforts are not made to prevent the many online scammers from robbing the elderly and vulnerable of their money.

It  is the online Nembutal scammers who are the real criminals. These are the people Interpol and the Police should be out catching, rather than harassing the elderly and seriously ill who are simply trying to secure a basic end of life choice in the face of a wholly inadequate legal situation.

The experience of Professor Avril Henry is now the subject of a major, feature documentary by Vice Studios. Titled Time to Die, the film will have an advance screening in Rio Cinemas in London at 6.30pm on Wednesday 17 July 2019.

Tickets & Details at Eventbrite

Time to Die Trailer on You Tube