New Death with Dignity Drugs: Zero Dignity; No Safeguards

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Over the last few years, the price of the most commonly prescribed “death with dignity” drug, Seconal, rose significantly and currently costs approximately $3,000 per prescription. Doctors who support physician-assisted suicide argued this was too expensive for most patients. A group of those doctors came together informally to create a new lethal drug cocktail designed to kill people under the guise of “Death with Dignity.” The results were not pretty for patients who were their test subjects. According to Kaiser Health News:

“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.

“[Twenty percent] of the cases were 3 hours or more before death, which we think is too long,” said Robert Wood, a retired HIV/AIDS researcher who volunteers with the advocacy group End of Life Washington, in an email. “The longest was 31 hours, the next longest 29 hours, the third longest 16 hours and some 8 hours in length.””

This news is extremely troubling.

First, people who believe they are receiving a dignified death are getting anything but that. Screaming in pain and waiting 31 hours to die is not dignified.

Second, this group of doctors is experimenting on real people without any sense of what this drug cocktail will do to them.  It’s clear even to non-doctors that high level doses of diazepam (anxiety medication); digoxin (heart medication); and morphine will cause death. But what these doctors did not understand are the potential side effects and interactions with other prescription drugs the patients may already be taking.

Third, as we know from Oregon’s death with dignity annual report, in 2016 in only 18% of cases was a health care provider present (either their prescribing physician or a hospice nurse, for example) when the patient took the lethal dose. This means that people who are now forced to experiment with a drug cocktail have no one present in case something goes wrong after they ingest the pills.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Physician-assisted suicide is anything but dignified. This latest example is another case of supporters of PAS ignoring the reality of assisted death.

Sign our online petition today and tell the Maryland General Assembly to say no to PAS and vote no on HB 370 and SB 354.

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