The Ugly Cost of Physician-Assisted Suicide

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On the heels of Colorado voting to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS), advocates are looking for ways to make the deadly concoction patients take to end their lives cheaper. Right now, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the drug company that manufactures one of the most popular drugs patients use is seizing the opportunity to make a profit by charging $3,000 for the lethal dose of secobarbital – a drug prescribed for insomnia, epilepsy, and pre-operative anesthesia.

The process for PAS with the expensive secobarbital requires patients to take an anti-nausea medicine followed by swallowing 100 pills of the deadly drug. But now as the cost skyrockets, doctors and researchers are looking for a cheaper option.

From today’s article in USA Today, it’s clear that the experimental research to find a cheap cocktail of drugs in order to implement PAS has not been successful. In fact, patient volunteers in Washington state have already suffered.

According to USA Today:

“The chloral hydrate mixture was too caustic for some folks and our volunteers didn’t like using it,” because some patients became distressed, [Dr. Robert] Wood said.

Most doses of lethal medication are bitter, often requiring patients to take anti-nausea drugs. But the new mixture was not only bitter but also caused a burning sensation in the mouths of some patients, said Glennon. “There was some profound burning,” she said. “We didn’t like working with it. As a volunteer, you want to reassure people. We’re about a peaceful, dignified death.”

These experiments to find cheaper, quicker paths to suicide clearly show that PAS does not ensure death with dignity. In fact, death with these experimental cocktails is still an uncertain process that can result in a painful death.

The article also makes the point that the majority of doctors in Colorado are either opposed or uncertain if they would be willing to prescribe the lethal drugs. And for good reason, we know that the states that have legalized the practice are now facing the reality of the many dangers that come with PAS.

Groups like Compassion and Choices have pushed legislation that they market as death with dignity when in fact it is just the opposite. PAS laws are getting passed throughout the country with no protections for patients and our most vulnerable populations. And now, we see pharmaceutical companies looking to make a profit off the dying. This is not death with dignity and it’s not right for Maryland.

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