What happens at a doctor-assisted death?
July 12th, 2020
Death With Dignity is legal in a few states in the U.S. and in a handful of countries. It generally means that the physician can prescribe a medication that when taken by the patient, when the patient is ready to take it, will lead to their death.
In the U.S., you need at least two physicians to decide that the patient is terminal because, in the United States, we offer this service only for patients who are not expected to live more than 6 months.
It turns out that 1/3 of the patients who get the prescription don't use it. Currently in the U.S., we are prescribing medicines that fall into the barbiturate class of drugs--drugs which basically make you very sleepy. One of the two drugs commonly used was taken off the market and so now instead of it costing about $1000, it costs about $20,000 and is a bit slower. Unfortunately, you don’t just take a single pill. You must take quite a few pills because stopping your breathing often requires a high dose.
If you decide to have control over the timing and circumstances of your death with this option, you will basically sleep and then stop breathing. It can take hours. 95% of people do it at home, surrounded by people they love. But the important thing to know is that it can take SEVERAL hours to go to sleep, and / or to actually die. It depends on how you metabolize the drugs.
There are cheaper ways to do it, but those options require a compound pharmacy. In general, insurance doesn’t pay for this option, so it’s only available to people with financial resources.