Providence Journal 17 October 2014
Did you know that many assisted suicides experience complications? Assisted suicide is wrongly marketed to the public as a flawless, peaceful escape from suffering. It can be a painful and scary death. It can include gasping, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, panic, confusion, failure to produce unconsciousness, waking from unconsciousness and a failure to cause death.
Just recently, we saw a heartbreaking article about a woman named Brittany Maynard who has planned her assisted-suicide death for Nov. 1. She is clearly terrified of a hard and painful death, and has been led to believe that assisted suicide is the best way out. However, Compassion and Choices, the leading advocates of assisted suicide, cannot guarantee her the easy death they advertise.
The most comprehensive study on clinical problems with assisted suicide (published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2000) was conducted over a six-year period in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for many years. It found that over 18 percent of assisted suicides experienced problems severe enough to cause a doctor to step in and euthanize the patient. In at least 14 percent of assisted suicides the patient had problems with completion including waking up from coma, not becoming comatose, and not dying after becoming comatose. Another 7 percent of assisted suicides reported muscle spasms, extreme gasping for air, nausea and vomiting.
The New England Journal of Medicine study insightfully mentions that all reporting doctors are practitioners and supporters of assisted suicide and euthanasia who are less likely to report unfavorable data. They “may have underestimated the number and seriousness of problems,” causing complications to be underreported to an unknown degree.
Assisted suicide supporter Sherwin Nuland of the Yale University School of Medicine referred to the above study in a 2000 editorial also printed in the New England Journal of Medicine:
“This is information that will come as a shock to the many members of the public — including legislators and even some physicians — who have never considered that the procedures involved in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia might sometimes add to the suffering they are meant to alleviate and might also preclude the tranquil death being sought.”
Lani Candelora is the special adviser for policy and legislative affairs for Rhode Island Right to Life. She blogs for TrueDignityVT.org.