Euthanasia: a painful, inhuman death?

Publié le : 11 March 2019

“Although aiming to achieve painless, distress-free death, a study has shown that this is not always the case”.  Professor Jaideep Pandit, an anaesthetist at Oxford University Hospitals, has published a study on the conditions under which euthanized patients die[1] in countries where this procedure is authorized. Euthanized patients generally receive barbiturates – powerful sedatives – which are meant make them lose consciousness and cause their lungs and heart to stop. But the study reports complications: 9% of patients received an incomplete dose due to difficulty in swallowing, while 10% vomited and therefore received an incorrect dose. As a result, some patients took up to one week to die or awoke from their coma. There are even reports of euthanized patients who were sitting up when they died. Awakening from coma occurs in 2% of euthanasia cases. “This raises a concern that some deaths may be inhuman,”said the researchers.

 

Unconsciousness usually occurs within a few minutes. In 67% of cases, death occurs within 90 minutes, while in 33% of cases it takes longer than 30 hours and in 4% of cases can take up to seven days. “The results go against the argument in support of medically assisted dying, which claims that patients die in dignity and peace”.

 

Although the methods and molecules vary enormously from one country to another, they all have the same goal: to kill an unconscious person as quickly and as soon as possible. “The [considerable] heterogeneity in methods suggests that an optimum method of achieving unconsciousness remains undefined” to date, the researchers said. This suggests “there is a risk that vulnerable citizens may be killed by suboptimal, or even cruel, means”.

 


[1] Study published in the journal Anaesthesia, and reported by the British Medical Journal.

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