The pro-death organization, Death with Dignity, gives a rosy picture of physician-assisted suicide. It portrays such deaths as the patient gently fading away into sweet oblivion after a simple injection of a drug by a physician. This, however, is not as advertised. In many instances, complications from lethal drugs have led to concerns about this procedure.

As a consequence, some physicians have been “researching” the use of drugs used in assisted suicide, trying to find a more efficient cocktail of drugs to kill the patient. Significantly, such “research” is not reviewed by ethics review committees, no medical association oversees these activities, and no government funds are provided for this research. Instead, the research is carried out in the shadows.

The problem is that the drugs used at present for assisted suicide may not kill the patient immediately and, instead, death may be delayed, sometimes even for days. Other patients may experience vomiting, inability to finish the medication, failure to go into a coma and in some cases, have the terrifying experience of waking from the coma after the injection. Some physicians, therefore, are experimenting to find more efficient drugs to kill the patients. Such experimentation has not always gone well. Some of the experimental drugs have been too harsh and burned the patient’s mouth and throat, causing them to scream in pain. A painful death is not a part of the narrative promoted by Death with Dignity.

Who Wants Physician-Assisted Suicide?

Death with Dignity further argues that assisted suicide is necessary to mercifully end the physical suffering of patients. Surprisingly, the latest research shows that terminally ill patients are not at all primarily concerned with pain, but are far more concerned about controlling the way in which they exit from this world. The fact is that almost all pain is controllable and is not the reason for assisted suicide. The real reason people want this manner of death is to avoid becoming dependent on another person for their personal, intimate care. Assisted suicide, therefore, is not about public health but is about individuals wanting to die before they have a disability that prevents them from personally caring for themselves. In effect, it is sought by individuals who want to satisfy their need for control, and who would rather die than become dependent on another human being. These individuals are usually white, well-insured, university-educated, and are used to controlling every aspect of their lives. For example, in the 18-year history of the Oregon State euthanasia law, only one black person has ever used the program, even though Oregon has a 22% non-white population. Ninety-seven percent of the assisted-suicide deaths in Oregon have been of white people. The black community has had a long, tragic history of state interference in their lives and it distrusts the healthcare system because of fear that racism will result in discrimination against them in death.

Assisted suicide, therefore, is directed to the affluent, educated, white individuals. Unfortunately, it has also opened the door and trapped vulnerable individuals in its vise, such as the aged and the mentally and physically disabled. It enables others to pressure them to undergo an early death for the convenience of these others.