An Explanation of Why It is Necessary to Fight Both Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Editor’s note. This is excerpted from an article appearing at “True Dignity Vermont :Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide” at http://truedignityvt.org/?p=333

In 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine featured an article on the clinical problems of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The article, titled Clinical Problems with the Performance of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands, can be found at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200002243420805.

This study analyzed data from 649 cases and found that complications (such as myoclonus or vomiting) occurred in 7% of the assisted suicide cases, and that problems with completion (such as a longer-than-expected time to death, failure to induce coma, or induction of coma followed by awakening of the patient) occurred in 16% of assisted suicide cases. According to the results of the study, “The physician decided to administer a lethal medication in 21 of the cases of assisted suicide (18 percent), which thus became cases of euthanasia. The reasons for this decision included problems with completion (in 12 cases) and the inability of the patient to take all the medications (in 5).”

This study shows how the legalization of assisted suicide will inevitably lead to euthanasia because a significant number of assisted suicides fail. In Holland those failed assisted suicides have been completed by lethal injection (i.e., euthanasia).

Of course we know that patients who have experienced a failure of an assisted suicide sometimes change their minds, because, of the three people in Oregon who took the poison and did not die in 2010, none decided to attempt suicide again.  We wonder if the other people, those whose relatives may have finished them off with a plastic bag or whose doctor, if present, may have finished them off with a lethal injection, would have also changed their minds, if given a chance.  We will never know how many of these people there were.  The dead tell no tales.