Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Euthanasia: The Netherlands Has Gone Down the Slippery Slope

Remember: the next victim could be YOU.

A 1973 court decision in the Netherlands started the process. Doctors and lawyers set strict guidelines to restrict when doctors could assist a terminally ill patient who wanted to commit suicide, and to protect a terminally ill patient who didn’t want to be euthanized (i.e., killed).

“In only 23 years, Dutch doctors have gone from being permitted to kill the terminally ill who ask for it, to killing the chronically ill who ask for it, to killing newborn babies in their cribs because they have birth defects, even though by definition they cannot ask for it. Dutch doctors also engage in involuntary euthanasia without significant legal consequence, even though such activity is officially prohibited,” writes Wesley J. Smith in Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder.

Guidelines won’t protect us, if the Dutch experience tells us anything. For example, a key guideline is that a person should not be euthanized due to the expense of keeping them alive. In a television documentary, one man said he was only agreeing to be euthanized because he didn’t want to be a financial burden on his family. He was killed.

After the guidelines had been in place for 23 years, doctors were surveyed about people they euthanized. Incidentally, doctors later admitted they had under-reported euthanasia cases, so the following statistics are actually less than what really happened.

In 1990, 130,000 people died in the Netherlands: 2,300 people asked doctors to kill them; 400 asked doctors to provide them with the means to kill themselves; 8,100 died when doctors deliberately gave them an overdose of pain medication to kill them (for which 4,941 patients didn’t consent); 1,040 people died when doctors euthanized them without their knowledge or consent (72 per cent of those never having given any indication they would want their lives terminated).

That’s breathtaking in more than one way.

It’s not so much that nine per cent died at the hands of doctors, which is alarming in and of itself. What should raise our cries of outrage is that 4,941 people (four per cent) did not give their consent to being killed. A doctor who operates on someone without their consent can be successfully sued and made to pay huge dollars for having done so. The same should apply for killing a person without their consent.

And it’s the 1,040 people (one per cent) who were killed without their knowledge or consent and the 749 who never wanted to die early that should get us up in arms.

Dutch doctors have gone from fighting death to administering death. We should never have to worry whether a doctor will decide we should be put down rather than healed or cared for.