In October 2012, Ezekiel Emanuel wrote an article titled Four Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide that was published in the New York Times. In the article, Emanuel explains why assisted suicide is not necessarily a “Good Death.” Emanuel wrote:
The last misconception about assisted suicide is that it is a quick, painless and guaranteed way to die. But nothing in medicine—not even simple blood draws—is without complications. It turns out that many things can go wrong during an assisted suicide. Patients vomit up the pills they take. They don’t take enough pills. They wake up instead of dying. Patients in the Dutch study vomited up their medications in 7 percent of cases; in 15 percent of cases, patients either did not die or took a very long time to die—hours, even days; in 18 percent, doctors had to intervene to administer a lethal medication themselves, converting a physician-assisted suicide into euthanasia.
Last week Kaiser Health News published an article promoting a new assisted suicide drug cocktail from Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The article also explains a few of the horrific details associated with the current assisted suicide drugs.
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.
In other words, in the past few years some assisted suicide deaths have been horrific. Dr. Carol Parrot, a doctor who does assisted suicide in Washington State explains:
Concerns about the overly long deaths surfaced last summer, Parrot said. Nearly all of the problems occurred in patients already taking high doses of opiates.
“We run into patients who are so tolerant or dependent on narcotics that even the astronomically high doses of oral narcotics in our prescription do not stop them from breathing,” she said.
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If patients have diseases that slow or alter normal organ function, it can affect the speed and amount of drugs absorbed in the small intestine, metabolized in the liver and sent to the rest of the body. Very large patients, too, may require larger doses.
Deaths aren’t required to be supervised, and no doctor was present with the unidentified patient who took 31 hours to die, so doctors would only be speculating about the reason, Parrot said.
The article concluded by informing that reader that:
KHN’s coverage of end-of-life and serious illness issues is supported by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
We need society to be committed to caring for, not killing people.