by Doug Mainwaring, Life Site, 5 July 2017
Mr Mainwaring considers why 200 Dutch doctors took out an advertisement in a major newspaper to declare “[Assisted suicide] for someone who cannot confirm he wants to die? No, we will not do that. Our moral reluctance to end the life of a defenseless man is too great.”
The doctors, many of whom currently serve as assisted-suicide providers, are objecting to the unchecked growth of euthanasia in their country, where people who have reduced mental capacity due to dementia are being euthanised.
Current law allows doctors to euthanize without verbal consent if a written declaration of will has been provided in advance. In addition, a doctor has to also first determine that the patient is undergoing unbearable suffering. But with reduced mental capacity, patients are often unable to confirm that their former request to be euthanized — executed perhaps years earlier — is still valid.
Alarm bells began to sound for these doctors a few years ago when an elderly woman was euthanized against her will.
The 80-year-old suffered from dementia. She had allegedly earlier requested to be euthanized when “the time was right” but in her last days expressed her desire to continue living.
Despite changing her mind about ending her life, her doctor put a sedative in the her coffee. When that wasn’t enough, the doctor enlisted the help of family members to hold down the struggling, objecting patient so that she could administer the lethal injection.
In 2016, the Dutch doctor was cleared of wrongdoing by a euthanasia oversight panel. The chairman of that panel expressed hope that the case will go to court – not so the doctor can be prosecuted but so a court can set a precedent on how far doctors may go in such cases.
The Netherlands appears to be going the way of nearby Belgium. In 2009, 12 patients with dementia were euthanized. In 2016, there 141 cases reported. And for those with psychiatric illness, there were no cases in 2009 but 60 in 2016.
Boudewijn Chabot, a psychogeriatrician and prominent euthanasia supporter, said in June that things are “getting out of hand.” He continued, “[L]ook at the rapid increase … The financial gutting of the healthcare sector has particularly harmed the quality of life of these types of patients. It’s logical to conclude that euthanasia is going to skyrocket.”
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