A pair of lawsuits filed last month — one in California, one in Washington state — claims that the e-commerce megastore Amazon “knowingly” sold so-called “suicide kits” to teens who then took their own lives shortly after the product arrived.
The main product in question is sodium nitrate, a chemical which, at 6% purity levels, is often used as a food preservative. However, the lawsuit claims that Amazon sells sodium nitrate at levels above 98% purity, which have “no non-institutional or household use,” but which have become a popular means of committing suicide. The New York Times reported in 2021 that an online chat forum about suicide often features recommendations for sodium nitrate as one of the “most discussed” suicide options available.
When highly purified, sodium nitrate, even in small doses, can cause difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and death. One of the main attorneys in the lawsuits Carrie Goldberg of C.A. Goldberg Law, PLLC claimed that just one teaspoon of the substance could be lethal.
Kristine Jónsson, 16, of Ohio, and Ethan McCarthy, 17, of West Virginia both allegedly used sodium nitrate purchased on Amazon to end their lives, and their parents have filed lawsuits against Amazon and the sodium nitrate distributor, Loudwolf.
Jónsson, who died in September 2020, managed to set up her own Amazon account, even though she was under 18, in order to make the purchase, the lawsuit alleges, while McCarthy, who died the following January, used his mother’s account.
The families of Mikael Scott, 27, and Tyler Muhleman, 17, are also participating in the Washington lawsuit filed by C.A. Goldberg.
These lawsuits do not contend that Amazon merely sold sodium nitrate. They also argue that Amazon presented product bundles which encouraged vulnerable people to use sodium nitrate for the purpose of suicide and denied them other means of counteracting the effects, should they consume the chemical and then change their minds.
In a lengthy tweet thread dated October 6, Goldberg wrote that Amazon “recommends” that those interested in sodium nitrate “also buy Tagamet to avoid vomiting up the poison, a personal use scale to measure the proper quantity, and the Amazon Edition of the Peaceful Pill Handbook, a suicide manual with an entire chapter on how to die by [sodium nitrate.]”
One antidote for sodium nitrate poisoning, Methylene-blue, is unfortunately not well known among emergency responders, and Goldberg suggested that some young people have died while in the care of medical technicians who do not recognize the symptoms of sodium nitrate poisoning and/or do not know to administer Methylene-blue to counteract it. The Loudwolf product label makes no mention of Methylene-blue, Goldberg said.
Goldberg also argues that Amazon used its considerable corporate influence to prevent major media companies from reporting the stories of Jónsson, McCarthy, Scott, and Muhleman. In particular, Goldberg asserted that Amazon leaned on the “higher-ups at CBS” to prevent the outlet from covering the lawsuits on a “60 Minutes” segment.
CBS defended spiking the story, claiming it “didn’t want to risk anybody dying from suicide on account of their segment.” However, one of the parents involved in the lawsuits reportedly offered an alternative explanation: “[E]veryone is afraid of Amazon.”
In a statement issued in response to the lawsuits, Amazon said: “We are committed to a safe shopping experience and require our selling partners to follow all applicable laws and regulations when listing items in our store. Sodium nitrite is a legal and widely-available product offered by retailers to preserve foods, such as meats and fish, and for use in laboratories as a reagent. Sodium nitrite is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused.”
Loudwolf reportedly did not respond to requests for comment.
H/T: the Gateway Pundit