The Danger from Physician-Assisted Suicide Prescriptions is Real

Editor’s note. The story below was posted last week on the site of Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide.

The good news is that the latest attempt in Maryland to pass an assisted suicide measure has failed. “The Senate’s lead sponsor Guy Guzzone (D-Howard County) withdrew the legislation and canceled scheduled hearings. In the House Delegate Shane Pendergrass (D-Howard County), anticipated a scheduled vote in the house but told the Washington Post on Friday that there simply were not enough votes to move forward. “We don’t see it passing this year.”

“Maryland Right to Life played a pivotal role in its defeat with strong chapter involvement, great testimony, and strong lobbying by Gwenn Murray,” said Maryland Right to Life’s Executive Director Ernie Ohlhoff. “We are very proud of our strong grassroots response to our legislative alert eblasts.”

NRL News Today is running the story because anti-life forces will be back again, and not just in Maryland.

We’ve written before about how physician-assisted suicide [PAS]actually plays out and how undignified it really is for patients.

In that piece, we detail the typical prescription a patient receives to kill themselves – between 90-100 pills (9-10 grams) of a barbiturate called Seconal. For a drug that is normally prescribed in doses of 100 mg (1 pill) for people who have trouble sleeping, a 90-100 pill dose taken all within an hour can only be described as an intentional overdose or poison.

What is often overlooked is that this intentional overdose, the suicide drugs, is often not taken right away, if at all by the patient who requested them. We know from PAS supporters public statements that patients take comfort in having the suicide drugs at the ready but may never take them. And we know from Oregon’s state data that hundreds of patients die before taking the pills. This situation creates a dangerous scenario for accidental or intentional ingestion of the deadly pills by someone other than the patient.

The first paragraph in a recent Baltimore Sun article says all we need to know about how people are currently treating deadly drugs in their own homes:

“Parents are leaving their opioid prescriptions out in the open, on counters and dressers, inadvertently giving children, especially teenagers, easy access to the pills, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.”

The abuse of opioids has received an incredible amount of attention by the media recently and for good reason. Yet, even with growing opioid addiction rates in Maryland, Johns Hopkins researchers found that a large majority of parents (70%) are not taking any precautions to safely store opioids in homes with children under 17.

The article goes onto note:

“Many teenagers will see an easily accessible pill bottle as a chance to experiment with the drug for the first time, or use it recreationally under the assumption that it’s safe because it was prescribed by a doctor. The easy early access increases their chance of addiction, the researchers said.”

If parents with small children in their home are not taking precautions to prevent abuse of opioids, it’s easy to see how an elderly, terminal patient would take no precautions to ensure their suicide drugs do not fall into the wrong hands.

House Bill 370 and Senate Bill 354 make no attempt to prevent this type of abuse. It’s one more example of a complete lack of safeguards included in this bill.