Amazon is facing a lawsuit alleging that the company is selling so-called suicide bundles to teenagers.
Two families who have lost children to suicide are bringing the lawsuit against Amazon, asserting that the teenagers bought a chemical that they later used to end their lives.
The parents of Kristine Jónsson, 16, from Ohio, and the parents of Ethan McCarthy, 17, from West Virginia, argue that Amazon is partly responsible for the deaths of their children because a particular chemical was sold on the site. The chemical is fatal when its purity levels are high.
The legal filing entered California state court last month. It states that Amazon made recommendations to customers who purchased the chemical to also buy a scale in order to measure the right dosage, as well as an anti-vomiting medication, and an Amazon edition of an assisted suicide handbook.
Lawyers Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds of CA Goldberg, PLLC, said in a statement that “Amazon is selling a product that is as deadly as cyanide”.
“This is different from them selling rope, knives, or other implements that can be used for death because there is no household use for [the chemical] at the level of purity it sells it,” the attorneys said.
The chemical is used at low concentrations in commercial food preparation, but those who consume too much can have trouble breathing, suffer abdominal pain, and in some cases it can be fatal.
Ms Goldberg has stated that some examples of this chemical being sold by the retail giant have a high purity level, meaning it is highly toxic.
The law firm filed a similar complaint in Washington state earlier this year, stating that Amazon also sold the drug to two others who used it to die by suicide – Mikael Scott, 27, and Tyler Muhleman, 17.
Amazon said in a statement to The Independent that they extend their “deepest condolences” to families affected by suicide and said customer safety was a top priority for the company. The retail giant said that sellers on Amazon must abide by all laws and regulations that apply.
A spokesperson for the company said the chemical is a “legal and widely-used product” offered by retailers for its use in food and for use in laboratories as a reagent. “[The chemical] is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused,” they said.
According to the attorneys bringing the lawsuit, the chemical from the company Loudwolf bought by the two teens in the case in California state court is no longer available on the platform.
The lawyers added that there is an antidote to the chemical, which comes in the form of an injection.
The lawsuit stated that Amazon sold ads to a brand of the antidote on several pages for the chemical, while the Loudwolf page didn’t mention the antidote.
According to the plaintiffs, online posts on forums discussing suicide speak of the chemical as a means of dying and that the company has been on the receiving end of complaints from some warning Amazon that some are buying the drug for the purpose of ending their lives.
A group of House members from both parties sent a letter to the company in February of this year requesting information regarding Amazon’s sales of the chemical and any deaths connected to those sales.
The group also requested information concerning what actions Amazon has taken in response to the risks of the chemical and how the company has responded to the complaints it has received, the New York Times reported.
The Times wrote in February that they had found 10 people who had used the drug to end their lives.
The Independent has reached out to Loudwolf for comment.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offer support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.
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