ORIGINAL STORY: Family members of a 19-year-old woman who died after taking an unknown substance at the Sydney leg of FOMO Festival on the weekend have begged New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian to implement pill testing.
Alexandra Ross-King died in Westmead Hospital on Saturday night, with her family by her side. Festival organisers said they were “deeply saddened” by her death, and said they do not condone “the sale, supply or consumption of illicit substances”.
Ross-King’s grandmother Denise Doig later addressed Premier Berejiklian while speaking with Network Ten, saying, “I just don’t want this to go, just pass by. I’d like this to have some legacy, and that is to get these pills tested.
“The reason I want the pills tested is, we’re not stopping them from being out there.
“Premier, please: can we have this pill testing done? It’s such a small thing to do, it’s not hard. Let’s try and get it out there.
“If it saves one life — one life is a life. And these are children. In the news, they say ‘young woman’; to me, she’s still a child.”
Ross-King’s uncle Phil Clark also backed calls for pill testing, telling Network Ten, “Strong leadership isn’t always about sticking to an ideological decision or a position when there’s possibly mountain evidence or advice that maybe something else should be tried. Strong leadership is trying something different.”
Speaking on Channel 7‘s Sunrise program on Monday, Premier Berejiklian again refused to consider pill testing as a potential harm reduction strategy, despite the tests receiving backing from leading scientists and health professionals.
“Pill testing does not prevent overdose deaths,” she said.
Alexandra Ross-King is the fifth person to die from a suspected drug overdose at an Australian music festival in the last six months, following other deaths at the likes of Lost Paradise, Beyond The Valley and Defqon 1 festivals.
In a statement released on Saturday, NSW Health Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, urged festival-goers to seek medical help if they or a friend feel unwell.
“While MDMA alone can be a killer, mixing MDMA with alcohol and other drugs can increase the risk of harm. Add to that warmer temperatures and you have even more issues,” she said.
“Look out for your mates. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you or a friend are experiencing trouble at a festival seek immediate medical attention from the staff onsite, or call 000 if you have left the festival.”
Australia’s first major pill testing trial took place at the Canberra leg of Groovin The Moo in April 2018, and discovered “deadly” contaminants in a number of samples tested.
Earlier this month, a number of Australia’s biggest music festivals released an open letter calling on state and territory governments to allow pill testing trials at local events, in an attempt to prevent drug-related deaths.