Saturday, May 10, 2014

Botched Execution and Euthanasia.

By Nic Steenhout, originally published by Mercatornet on May 4, 2014.

Nic Steenhout
It is false that “medical aid in dying” always provides a quiet death. No, euthanasia is a violent gesture, for the person killed as well as for the physician.

Those who wish to legalise “medical aid in dying” state that we must give an easier death for those at end of life. They say that euthanasia is the way to do it. However, there are clear indications that euthanasia often is a rather violent death.

Let’s take the recent cases of two death-row inmates, Clayton Lockett and Dennis McGuire, where the execution by lethal injection went extremely badly. Lockett took 26 minutes to die. Witnesses say that he was gasping for breath the whole time. McGuire died more than an hour after the injection, from a heart attack, after the injection ruptured a vein, botching the execution. Yet, it is the executioner’s job to conduct these procedures properly.

I hesitate to compare humans to animals, but there are plenty of stories of botched euthanasia for cats and dogs – as shown by a quick Google search. Yet, veterinarians do these procedures regularly.

But there are also documented cases of botched assisted suicides. David Reinard tells the story of a man who woke up three days after taking a lethal prescription, or the case of a man who had to “help” the dying person after they started vomiting and becoming very agitated.

Death by euthanasia, by “medical aid in dying”, by assisted suicide, or by lethal injection may be extremely violent for the dying person. But it is also violent for the physician that conducts the act. Marie de Hennezel, a French psychologist, psychotherapist and author eloquently speaks about it:
“As a psychologist, I have been for the past twenty years the confidante of many doctors and nurses having euthanized a patient. I can bear witness to the violence that this radical act represents: it is a source of prolonged nightmares and some, haunted by the last look of the patient to whom they have given death, are dragged into unending depressions. We have to become aware of the weight that this can represent for them”.
We must be conscious of the facts. Euthanasia does not guarantee a quiet, dignified and painless death. If we truly want to help people at end-of-life, we must improve access to palliative care.

Nicolas Steenhout is Executive Director at Vivre Dans La Dignité, in Québec.


Rob Jonquière, Amsterdam said...

The argumentation used by Nicolas Steenhout against legalising “medical aid-in-dying”, can bring me to only one conclusion: it proves that (legal) absence of medical aid in terminating a life (for whatever reason) results in botched executions (wrong medication in wrong dosages and by wrong applications) or failures with assisted suicides. 12 Years of Dutch experience (over 20.000 reported euthanasia cases since 2002) demonstrates the importance of availability of a legal and thus transparent and open assistance by a doctor, when the suffering of the person concerned becomes unbearable for him and not treatable (even by the best palliative care): none of the botches suggested by Steenhout happened, none of the doctors having applied euthanasia reported their act as “violent”. So, his argumentation only supports the opinion of many that transparent, legal physician aid-in-dying (euthanasia) as a patient(!)choice in end-of-life decisions is humane.

Alex Schadenberg said...

I published the article because Canada and the Netherlands have outlawed Capital Punishment. I also oppose capital punishment.

In Canada, one of the reasons for outlawing capital punishment was that the Supreme Court decided that it was inhumane to ask some to kill you, whether it be you asking or the state asking.

I agree with that decision also.