Belgium Palliative Care Workers Unable to Kill Patients Due to Shortage of Euthanasia Drug

By John Jalsevac

PentothalBRUSSELS, Belgium, August 11, 2006 ( - Palliative care personnel in Belgium are complaining that a changeover in the pharmaceutical market has rendered them unable to euthanize their patients, Expatica reported on Wednesday.

The problem occurred after the U.S. manufacturers of Pentothal, the “euthanasia drug,” transferred their license to another firm. Since then the flow of the drug into Belgium has stopped. According to The Brussels Journal a change-over in the method of packaging the drug is the cause of the sudden lack of supply.

Palliative care workers are deeply concerned about the dearth of Pentothal. WithoutÂtheÂdrug they sayÂit is impossible toÂcomfortably kill the on-average 30 patients a month who are officially euthanized in Belgium, as well as the speculated much larger number ofÂpatients whose deaths by euthanasia go unregistered as such.

“Our supply [of Pentothal] is completely finished,” said Marc Cornely, a spokesman for a large chain of Belgium pharmacies.

“We have been without [Pentothal] for weeks now,” complained professor Wim Distelmans, a palliative care professor at the VUB. “The intention of euthanasia is to bring the patient into an [sic] in an irreversible coma in an elegant and reliable manner. Pentothal is the only drug which can do this.”

The new producer of the drug, Hospira, however, has said that the shortage could soon come to an end, as they have a stockpile of 4,000 bottles of Pentothal which could be pumped into the market once the proper paperwork is filed. Initially it was feared that it could be as long as three months before Belgium’s palliative care givers were able to kill their patients, but with Hospira’s emergency plan that time could be cut down to several weeks.

Alex Schadenberg the executive director of Canada’s euthanasia prevention coalition, pointed out the dark irony of the earnest concern of Belgium’s palliative care and pharmaceutical agencies.
“This proves how the dignity of the person has been lost in Belgium,” he said. “When it is considered a medical emergency that they do not have the necessary drug to kill people. People don’t need to be killed they need to receive excellent end of life care. They then die with true dignity, being cared for with proper pain and symptom management with care to the persons physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.

“Euthanasia is not a medical act and should not be administered within the framework of palliative care within Belgium.”

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