As assisted suicide continues to spread in popularity, a horrifying report raised an alarm about what people may experience in a process sold to them as a way to escape a painful, protracted death. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, highlighted a series of experiments with drugs used to kill assisted suicide patients in 2017, and the terrible effects they had.
USA Today reported on a series of drug changes doctors debated using after the price for Seconal, the sedative previously used for assisted suicide, was doubled. The journey to try to find a better alternative, however, didn’t go well.
The first drug cocktail was “too harsh,” according to USA Today; it was “burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain.” The second mixture didn’t work adequately, with death taking hours. “[Twenty percent] of the cases were 3 hours or more before death, which we think is too long,” Robert Wood, a volunteer with End of Life Washington, said in an email to USA Today. “The longest was 31 hours, the next longest 29 hours, the third longest 16 hours and some 8 hours in length.”
Patients and their families were told patients would fall asleep within 10 minutes, and would die within four hours.
The solution, according to Wood and Dr. Carol Parrot, a retired anesthesiologist who has prescribed fatal drugs for assisted suicide patients, was to use larger doses of three drugs together — diazepam, digoxin, and morphine — along with propranolol. “We wanted the new drug regime to be safe, reliable and effective — and cost $500 or less,” Parrot told USA Today.
Previously, assisted suicide patients were put to death with pentobarbital, the same drug used during executions. That stopped after drug manufacturers refused to allow it to be used for the death penalty. That led doctors to use Seconal, until that was no longer an option, either. And despite the various issues that have arisen at times, doctors are not necessarily present when patients go through with their assisted suicides. The patient who took 31 hours to die did not have a doctor present at the time.
But what is just as shocking is that, for assisted suicide activists, these are not concerning issues. “I’ve heard stories where it took quite a number of hours to die, and it was fine,” Dr. David Grube, a medical director for Compassion & Choices, told USA Today.
Parrot also denied that they were essentially conducting experiments on unwitting patients. “We’re not experimenting,” she said. “We are working with available drugs to provide dying patients a comfortable, peaceful death that is reliable and safe for them and comforting for their families as well.”
People are sold on the idea of assisted suicide being an alternative to a long, painful death from diseases like cancer. Yet as Schadenberg pointed out earlier this year, there have been numerous concerns raised that assisted suicide deaths are inhumane, and that there isn’t one single, specific method used to kill patients.
“The assisted suicide promoters and practitioners developed the lethal drug cocktail by doing human trials rather than animal trials. The team appeared concerned with the lethal efficacy and cost of the lethal drugs as opposed to the possible negative consequences,” Schadenberg said this week, adding, “The euthanasia lobby is not concerned with a ‘good’ death but rather the cost of the drugs. So much for dying with compassion and dignity.”
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