Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Euthanasia &Assisted Suicide Techniques

We’ve covered a lot of topics in this euthanasia/assisted suicide blog, but we’ve barely discussed the methods of aiding these people reach death. A variety of devices and options exist, but is there one which is more appropriate than the others, or is it the final outcome that matters most? Regardless, here is a list of techniques currently being utilized:

1. Barbiturates: Are drugs that act on the central nervous system that when taken in a specified way can cause death. Barbiturates can only be acquired with a prescription. Typically patients have to administer the barbiturates to themselves orally. Two types are used more commonly than others and are Seconal and Nembutal.

Seconal is considerably the less expensive of the two, costing about $125 for a lethal dose (10 grams). This dosage comes in the form of 100 individual caplets. The caplets are typically cracked open resulting in approximately three tablespoons of lethal powder. which must be cracked and which comes in the form of 100 individual caplets that must be broken apart to produce about three tablespoons of powder. The Seconal powder is than usually mixed with mater or pudding/apple sauce to camouflage the bitter taste.

After consuming the Seconal powder, the individual slips into a coma within five minutes and usually dies with thirty minutes. However, it has been said that healthy/in-shape and extremely over-weight patients can take up to forty-eight hours to die.

Although Nembutal comes in a more convenient liquid form, a lethal dose costs upwards of $1,000. The benefit of this more expensive drug is that death is guaranteed quicker and more imminent.

2. “The Mercitron”: Is a Dr. Jack Kevorkian invention that used to induce voluntary death. As the picture shows ( http://pds.exblog.jp/pds/1/200504/19/65/c0001465_0112172.jpg ), the mercitron consists of a metal frame supporting three canisters which feed into a single IV. This IV is hooked into the person’s blood stream so the contents of the canisters can be administered quickly.

The contents of the three containers are saline, barbiturates (to induce sleep), and a lethal mixture of potassium chloride (immediately stops the heart) and muscle relaxants (prevents spasms during death). Once saline administration is started by Kevorkian, it is the patient’s responsibility to tug a string in order to begin the flow of barbiturates. Once the barbiturate flow starts, a timer begins which dictates when the lethal drugs and issued. Ideally, the potassium chloride is not supposed to entry the blood stream until the patient has already been put soundly asleep by the barbiturates. Death usually occurs after only two minutes.

3. Gasses

Carbon Monoxide: A tight sealing mask covers the patient’s mouth and nose and is feed lethal carbon dioxide through a tube attached to a canister. The gas will not flow until a valve is turned. In situations where patients are not able to do this on their own, the valve will be left in the open position with a clamped clothespin restricting the gas from flowing through the tube. As a result the patient simply has to pull the clothespin off to induce death. The entire process from start to death usually takes approximately 10 minutes and the use of sedatives to induce a sense of calm is encouraged.

Inert Gases (e.g. Helium): Masks similar to those used to induce death in carbon dioxide poison are used with inert gas poisoning. The benefits of inert gas include easier breathability (odorless, tasteless) and that the death process is reduced to only five minutes. The entire apparatus and inert gas canisters can usually be purchased for slightly more than $20.
The major drawback with the use of any poisonous gas as opposed to the previous methods is that if the procedure is interrupted or if the individual changes their mind, brain damage is likely to occur.

4. “The Debreather”: Has been used at least ten times in the US effectively. Similar to poisoning via carbon dioxide and inert gases, the debreather also consists of a masked hooked to a canister via a rubber tube. In contrast to those procedures, rather than dying from inhalation of poisoning fumes, the person dies from lack of oxygen.

Every breath the individual takes seems normal, however, they’re actually breathing in air devoid of oxygen. The canister is actually filled with a variety of chemicals which “cleanses” the air of all oxygen being fed through the tube. The person attached to the debreather can survive for four to ten minutes before they die of anoxia (body’s oxygen starvation). Death is said to be quick and painless.

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