Euthanasia Group Promotes Cheaper Drug for People to Use to Kill Themselves in an Assisted Suicide

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 5, 2016   |   9:37AM   |   Washington, DC

Money has always been a key motivator for euthanasia advocates. So when the maker of a drug used for assisted suicide recently doubled the drug price, euthanasia groups in the U.S. began looking for a cheaper solution.

According to the Seattle Times, Dr. Robert Wood, a medical researcher and euthanasia advocate with End of Life Washington, said doctors recently found a new lethal mix of medications that will cost about $500 for assisted suicide patients. With the price hike, the standard assisted suicide drugs cost about $3,000, according to the report.

“We thought we should concoct an alternative that would work as well,” Wood said. “It does work as well.”

The report continues:

Now doctors in Oregon have adopted the drug mix, too, as a way to ensure that cost doesn’t prevent terminally ill patients from making the choice they want under the state’s right-to-die law. And in California, where a similar law takes effect later this year, officials are considering it as well.

“We’ve always had the belief that no matter who you are, whether you’re rich or poor, you should have access to a lethal dose of medicine that does what you want: to end your life in a peaceful and dignified manner,” said George Eighmey, president of the board of the Death with Dignity National Center, based in Portland.



The issue arose last year, when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec acquired the rights to Seconal, the trade name of secobarbital sodium, the most commonly prescribed drug for aid-in-dying patients. The firm quickly doubled the cost, from $1,500 to more than $3,000 — and up to $5,000. That’s on top of previous retail price increases for the nearly 90-year-old sedative that once sold for $150 for a lethal 10-gram dose.

The new deadly drug mix is a combination of phenobarbital, chloral hydrate and morphine sulfate in powdered form, which can be mixed with water, alcohol, juice or applesauce, according to the report. Wood said the new drugs taste worse, burn the mouth and may take longer to work than the more expensive drugs.

As to whether the drug mix actually causes a “peaceful and dignified” death, euthanasia advocates expect people to simply take their word for it. State assisted suicide laws in Washington, Oregon, California and Vermont allow doctors to decide which deadly drugs to prescribe, but most use Seconal, according to euthanasia advocates.

End of Life Washington reported that 55 of the 155 people who killed themselves via assisted suicide in Washington state last year opted for the new drug mix. In 2015, 16 people in Oregon also committed suicide using the new drugs, according to the group.

David Grube, a doctor in Oregon, told NPR that the euthanasia group Compassion & Choices is working on a campaign to reduce drug costs and educate doctors and patients about assisted suicide.

“My dream is that any Californian who will choose aid in dying would have few burdens or barriers to jump through,” Grube said.

Some are blaming  Valeant Pharmaceuticals of doubling the price of its drug because of California’s new assisted suicide law. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the deadly new law in October 2015; however, the drug company upped its price months before that in February 2015, according to the report.

Pro-lifers have many concerns about assisted suicide. Carol Tobias of National Right to Life previously said the new California law “shows a blatant disregard for the lives of California’s medically vulnerable citizens and sends a message to these citizens that their lives are less worthy to be lived. The so-called ‘right-to-die’ movement promotes these laws as simply ‘another medical option’ at the end of life, but their real goal is euthanasia on demand for any reason.”

Pro-life and disability rights groups have been working together to fight against the push toward euthanasia. They said these assisted suicide laws do not have any safeguards in place to protect vulnerable people from coercion and abuse.

Oregon became the first state in the nation to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in 1994. Proponents argue that such laws are necessary to provide “compassionate aid in dying for terminally ill patients.”

There are no real safeguards. It is a well-established fact that nearly every terminally ill patient who desires death is suffering from treatable depression. In Oregon, fewer than 6% of patients have been referred for psychiatric evaluation before obtaining life-ending drugs. Rather than treat clinically depressed patients, the Oregon system, and the system that is being established by the California law, indicates that doctors should help the patients kill themselves.