Anaesthetists say assisted suicide deaths are inhumane

The case for legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia simplistically assumes that once legalised such deaths will be both rapid and peaceful. However, this is not the case. As a 2019 article in the journal Anaesthesia found:

Complications related to assisted dying methods were found to include difficulty in swallowing the prescribed dose (≤9%), a relatively high incidence of vomiting (≤10%), prolongation of death (by as much as seven days in ≤4%), and failure to induce coma, where patients re-awoke and even sat up (≤1.3%).This raises a concern that some deaths may be inhumane.

Netherlands

Technical problems, complications and problems with completion in the administration of lethal drugs for euthanasia have been reported from the Netherlands.

Technical problems occurred in 5% of cases.  The most common technical problems were difficulty finding a vein in which to inject the drug and difficulty administering an oral medication.

Complications occurred in 3% of cases of euthanasia, including spasm or myoclonus (muscular twitching), cyanosis (blue colouring of the skin), nausea or vomiting, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), excessive production of mucus, hiccups, perspiration, and extreme gasping.  In one case the patient’s eyes remained open, and in another case, the patient sat up. 

In 10% of cases the person took longer than expected to die (median 3 hours) with one person taking up to 7 days.

From 2016 to July 2018 the Board of Procurators General reported on 11 cases of euthanasia with serious breach of protocols by the doctor, including a failed assisted suicide because the doctor ordered the wrong drug;

seven cases of the muscle relaxant being administered when the person was not in a full coma and therefore potentially causing pain;

and three cases where a first attempt at euthanasia failed and the doctor had to leave the person to get a second batch of lethal drugs.

Oregon

In Oregon in 2018 nearly four out of ten (39.28%) of all deaths by ingesting a lethal dose involved a cocktail in which morphine sulfate was the main lethal substance.

This experimental lethal cocktail does not always result in a swift and peaceful death.

In 2018 one in nine (11.11%) of those for whom information about the circumstances of their deaths is available either had difficulty ingesting or regurgitated the lethal dose or had other complications. Two people had seizures in 2017.

The interval from ingestion of lethal drugs to unconsciousness has been as long as four hours (in 2017).

The time from ingestion to death has been as long as 104 hours (4 days and 8 hours). One person in 2018 took 14 hours to die.

A total of 8 people have regained consciousness after taking the supposedly lethal dose, including one person in 2018.

Two of the cases of regaining consciousness occurred after using DDMP2 – the latest experimental lethal cocktail being used by pro-assisted suicide doctors.

Washington

In 2017 one person took 6 hours to lose consciousness after ingesting the lethal dose and one person took 35 hours to die after ingesting the lethal dose. In 2016 one person took 11 hours to lose consciousness after ingesting the lethal dose. In 2015 one person took 72 hours (3 days) to die after ingesting the dose. In 2013 one person took 3 hours to lose consciousness after ingesting the lethal dose and one person took 41 hours (1 day and 17 hours) to die after ingesting the dose. In 2009 two people awakened after initially losing consciousness. In 2014 one person suffered seizures after ingesting the lethal medication.

At least 18 patients have regurgitated the lethal medication. Seven of these cases occurred in 2016 alone.

DDMP2

The latest attempt at an experimental lethal cocktail aimed at delivering a rapid and peaceful death is a failure.

The 2018 Data Summary from Oregon reports on 43 cases of (attempted or completed) assisted suicide using DDMP2 where the results were observed and recorded.

12 people out of 43 (27.9%) died between 13 and 59 minutes of ingesting the lethal cocktail.

19 people (44.18%) died between 1 and 6 hours of ingesting the lethal cocktail.

10 people (23.2%) or almost one out of four people took between 6 and 21 hours to die after ingesting the lethal cocktail.

2 people (4.65%) regained consciousness and did not die after ingesting the (supposedly) lethal cocktail.

Victoria

DDMP2 is likely to be the experimental lethal cocktail to be used for assisted suicides in Victoria from 19 June 2019.

There is no requirement for a doctor, health care provider or indeed any witness at all to be present when Victorians, pursuant to an assisted suicide approval permit from the State of Victoria ingest an experimental lethal cocktail funded and supplied by the State of Victoria. Nor is there any requirement for any such witness who may be present to report adverse outcomes following ingestion. So we may never know how many Victorians suffer inhumane deaths under Victoria's assisted suicide law.


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