Washington State assisted suicide group: death may take hours

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A Washington State assisted suicide lobby group is informing its “clients” that death by assisted suicide may take many hours. 

In their document, Death with Dignity – Preparing for the last day, End of Life Washington states:

Every individual is different and time to death after taking the medication varies greatly depending on the person’s physical condition and ability to absorb the medication. Be assured that once the person is in a coma (generally within 5-10 minutes of taking the life-ending medication), they will be in a peaceful place and not experience any suffering. If they do not die as soon as expected, do not panic. There is little that can be done except to wait. Caregivers may administer any of the medications in a hospice kit, if one is available, in response to any symptoms that ordinarily would be treated.

It may be helpful to consider the additional hours as a time for a vigil, which often occurs during the last hours of a person’s life during a natural death.

The Washington State 2018 assisted suicide report found there were 203 reported assisted suicide deaths. Of those, there were 8 reported complications, likely related to the new especially lethal drug cocktails. 

Also, 62 deaths reportedly took more than 90 minutes with the time of death ranging from 7 minutes to 30 hours.

The Oregon 2019 assisted suicide report states that the time of death ranged from 1 minute to 47 hours. However, the report didn’t indicate how many people died more than 90 minutes after taking the lethal drugs.

The fact that assisted suicide deaths can take many hours is directly related to the new lethal drug cocktails that have been developed to enable a cheaper way to kill.

The new lethal drug cocktails were developed through human experimentation. The results of the first two failed lethal drug trials were:

The (first) turned out to be too harsh, burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain. The second drug mix, used 67 times, has led to deaths that stretched out hours in some patients — and up to 31 hours in one case.

In February 2019,  I published the article “Assisted dying can cause inhumane deaths” based on research by Professor Jaideep Pandit that was published in the British Medical Journal.

Prof. Pandit found that the complications associated with assisted suicide include:

  • Difficulty in swallowing the prescribed dose (up to nine per cent) and vomiting in 10 per cent, both of which can prevent proper dosing.
  • Re-emergence from a coma occurred in two per cent of cases, with a small number of patients even sitting up during the dying process, the authors said. 
  • After oral sedative ingestion, patients usually lose consciousness within five minutes. However, death takes considerably longer. 
  • But in a third of cases, death can take up to 30 hours.