Monday, March 4, 2019

Many assisted suicide deaths are slow and painful, not dignified or compassionate.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.



The release of the data from the recent 2018 Oregon DWD report indicates that some Oregon assisted suicide deaths were long and drawn out, but the report doesn't provide data on the suffering associated with these deaths. This article examines the suffering experienced while dying.

According to the 2018 Oregon assisted suicide report. There were 168 reported assisted suicide deaths up from 158 in 2017.

  • 11 of the deaths, the lethal drugs were prescribed in previous years.
  • 3 of the patients were referred for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation.
  • There were 249 lethal prescriptions obtained, up from 218 in 2017.
  • The time of death ranged from 9 minutes to 14 hours. When dying from DCMP2, death took an average of 2 hours, with the longest time taking 21 hours.

Recently I published the article - assisted dying can cause inhumane deaths that was based on research by Professor Jaideep Pandit as published in the British Medical Journal. Pandit researched complications with deaths by assisted suicide and capital punishment. 

Pandit reports that the complications include:
difficulty in swallowing the prescribed dose (up to nine per cent) and vomiting in 10 per cent, both of which can prevent proper dosing. 
Re-emergence from a coma occurred in two per cent of cases, with a small number of patients even sitting up during the dying process, the authors said. 
After oral sedative ingestion, patients usually lose consciousness within five minutes. However, death takes considerably longer.  
But in a third of cases, death can take up to 30 hours, and some deaths took as many as seven days to occur (four per cent).
The recently released 2018  Oregon DWD assisted suicide report indicates that the longest duration for death was 21 hours and when the DCMP2 lethal drug cocktail was used the average death took 2 hours.


The Oregon assisted suicide report does not report the extent of suffering caused by assisted suicide drugs.

An article by JoNel Aleccia published by Kaiser Health News on March 5, 2017 examined the experiments by assisted suicide activists to find a cheaper alternative drug cocktail for assisted suicide. 

Research into a new death drug cocktail began after Seconal became too expensive and Pentobarbital became unavailable in the US. 

The article states:

The first Seconal alternative turned out to be too harsh, burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain. The second drug mix, used 67 times, has led to deaths that stretched out hours in some patients — and up to 31 hours in one case.
The lethal drug cocktail experiments were done with human experiments. Even though people suffered greatly from the lethal cocktail, the drug experiments were done on 67 people.

An article by Jennie Dear published on January 22, 2019 in the Atlantic reports on the development of the lethal drugs cocktails. 

The Atlantic article reports:
In 2016, a small group of doctors gathered in a Seattle conference room to find a better way to help people die. They included physicians at the forefront of medical aid in dying—the practice of providing terminal patients with a way to end their own life. And they were there because the aid-in-dying movement had recently run into a problem. The two lethal medications used by most patients for decades had suddenly become either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. 
The meeting of the 2016 group set in motion research that would lead the recipe for one of the most widely used aid-in-dying drugs in the United States. But the doctors’ work has taken place on the margins of traditional science. Despite their principled intentions, it’s a part of medicine that’s still practiced in the shadows.
The Atlantic article continues:
In Washington, an advocacy organization called End of Life Washington briefly advised prescribing a drug mixture with the sedative chloral hydrate to about 70 patients. “We know this is going to put you to sleep, and we’re pretty sure it’s going to kill you,” Robert Wood, a medical director at the organization, says they told the patients. It worked, but with a tragic catch: In a few cases, the chloral hydrate burned people’s throats, causing severe pain just at the time they expected relief.
The Atlantic article explains how the group did human testing on the lethal drug cocktail known as DMP:
Next, the group had to test the drug. But they still didn’t have a way to follow standard procedure: There would be no government-approved clinical drug trial, and no Institutional Review Board oversight when they prescribed the concoction to patients. The doctors took what precautions they could. Patients could opt in or out, and for the first 10 deaths, either Parrot or Law would stay by the bedside and record patients’ and families’ responses. 
The first two deaths went smoothly. But the third patient, an 81-year-old with prostate cancer, took 18 hours to die.
The article explains that the group stopped DMP testing, met by conference call and decided to try a new lethal cocktail called DDMP. The article explains:
At first, Parrot gave patients latitude in how they took this new drug combination. “One guy chugged a half a cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream, his favorite thing, after he had his medicine,” she says. “He probably took five or six hours to die.” She suspects that the fat particles in the Bailey’s slowed his gastric emptying. So the researchers checked in with each other again, and decided to increase the doses to what Parrot calls “blue-whale-sized doses.” They dubbed the modified formula DDMP2.
So this is how the assisted suicide lobby developed the lethal drug cocktail DDMP2, referred to as DCMP2 in the 2018 Oregon DWD report.

The assisted suicide promoters and practitioners developed the lethal drug cocktail by doing human trials rather than animal trials first. The team appeared concerned with the lethal efficacy and cost of the lethal cocktail as opposed to the possible negative consequences with the use of these drugs.

Before legalizing assisted suicide, legislators need to know how it is done, the negative consequences associated with these drugs and the ethics related to the development and use of these drugs.

So much for dying with compassion and dignity.

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