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People trying to smuggle suicide drug nembutal into New Zealand will have it confiscated at the border, the Health Ministry has warned.

The warning comes ahead of voluntary euthanasia seminars due to be held in New Zealand by controversial Australian doctor Philip Nitschke.

Dr Nitschke, due here this week, has talked about helping organise trips to Mexico for New Zealanders wanting to obtain nembutal.

The Ministry of Health last night issued a statement saying anyone bringing the drug into New Zealand, either directly or via the mail system, would have it detained at Customs.

The drug is rated Class C and would be seized and held until a local registered medical practitioner issued a prescription for it, the ministry said.

Dr Nitschke said today there had been situations where elderly folk had gone to Mexico to try and get the drug but had got into difficulty.

"It's quite hard unless you know exactly what you're doing, so what we do is we make sure they get accurate information and the most recent information," he told Radio New Zealand.

New Zealand Medical Association chairman Ross Boswell questioned Dr Nitschke's intentions and the advice he was likely to give those attending seminars.

"Suicide is not illegal, but there are laws that govern the assistance with suicide and it could well be that Dr Nitschke is sailing close to the wind on those laws."

Dr Boswell said he didn't think those attending Dr Nitschke's seminars would be getting sound advice.

"The advice you would get at it is not standard medical advice," he said.

Auckland's Voluntary Euthanasia Society spokesman Jack Jones said that was a risk people were prepared to take.

He said people interested in obtaining nembutal were people who wanted to be able to end their lives when illness became too much for them, and to be able to die with dignity.

The Health Ministry last year dropped a complaint from the New Zealand Medical Council that Dr Nitschke's seminars here amounted to the illegal practise of medicine as he was not registered here.

- NZPA