Monday, June 21, 2010

Dutch euthanasia deaths up 13%

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week I commented on the increase of deaths by euthanasia in the Netherlands at:

The National Post reprinted an article by Simon Caldwell from The Daily Telegraph. Caldwell's points are: euthanasia is up by 13% compared to last year, it is up significantly since 2003, the social taboo to not kill someone by euthanasia appears to be waning and finally, even Els Borst, the Dutch leader who had guided the euthanasia law through the Dutch Parliament has acknowledged that palliative care should have been developed first, before euthanasia become legal, the article follows:

Dutch Euthanasia cases up 13%

Euthanasia cases in Holland have increased by 13% in the past year, according to new figures, and Dutch medics have been accused of applying a liberal interpretation of the law and sometimes killing people who cannot properly consent.

Last year, 2,636 Dutch people were killed by euthanasia, with 80% of the cases involving people dying at home after their doctors administered a lethal dose of drugs. This compares with 2,331 reported deaths in 2008.

In 2003, the year after Holland became the first country since the fall of Nazi Germany to legalize the practice, there were 1,815 cases.

Euthanasia is usually carried out by administering a sedative, followed by a drug to cause death. To qualify, patients must be in unbearable pain and their doctor convinced they are making an informed choice.

The opinion of a second doctor is also required. Jan Suyver, chairman of the Dutch government's euthanasia monitoring commission, said the rising number of cases came as the "taboo" once attached to euthanasia began to fade. "It could also be that doctors are more likely to report it," he said.

Dr. Els Borst
The increase in cases in 2008 has prompted the Dutch health ministry to open an inquiry into the law. Dr. Els Borst, the former deputy prime minister who guided the law through the Dutch parliament, said in December that she regretted that euthanasia was effectively destroying palliative care. The British campaign group Dignity in Dying has acknowledged that euthanasia was open to abuse but said assisted suicide could work in practice.

Link to the article in the National Post:

1 comment:

Ethos said...

For assisted suicide but against voluntary euthanasia !

About the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide, one must distinguish between the legal, ethical and religious arguments. One cannot just say without qualification that there is no difference between the two : in one case it is the patient himself who take his own life (assisted suicide), whereas in euthanasia it is the physician. One must first specify on what grounds (legal, ethical or religious) he draws is arguments. In the field of ethics, one can reasonably argue that there is no difference between the two. However, in the legal field, there is a difference between euthanasia (so-called first-degree murder with a minimum sentence of life imprisonment) and assisted suicide (which is not a murder or homicide and which the maximum sentence is 14 years of imprisonment). In the case of assisted suicide, the cause of death is the patient's suicide and assisted suicide is somehow a form of complicity (infraction of complicity). But since the attempted suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972 (and in 1810 in France), this complicity (infraction of abetting suicide) makes no sense because this infraction should only exist if there is a main offence. But the suicide (or attempted suicide) is no longer a crime since 1972. So, logically, there cannot be any form of complicity in suicide. The offense of assisted suicide is a nonsense. Judge McLachlin said :

« In summary, the law draws a distinction between suicide and assisted suicide. The latter is criminal, the former is not. The effect of the distinction is to prevent people like Sue Rodriguez from exercising the autonomy over their bodies available to other people. The distinction, to borrow the language of the Law Reform Commission of Canada, "is difficult to justify on grounds of logic alone": Working Paper 28, Euthanasia, Aiding Suicide and Cessation of Treatment (1982), at p. 53. In short, it is arbitrary »

In contrast, voluntary euthanasia is considered a first-degree murder. The doctor kills the patient (at his request) by compassion to relieve his pain and suffering. There's a violation of one of the most fundamental ethical and legal principles : the prohibition to kill a human being. Our democratic societies are based on the principle that no one can remove a person's life. The end of the social contract is "the preservation of the contractors" and the protection of life has always founded the social fabric. We've abolished the death penalty in 1976 (and in 1981 in France) in response to the « broader public concerns about the taking of life by the state » (see United States v. Burns, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 283) ! Even if voluntary euthanasia (at the request of the patient) may, under certain circumstances, be justified ethically, we cannot ipso facto concluded that euthanasia should be legalized or decriminalized. The legalization or decriminalization of such an act requires that we take into account the social consequences of the legalization or decriminalization. The undeniable potential of abuse (especially for the weak and vulnerable who are unable to express their will) and the risk of erosion of the social ethos by the recognition of this practice are factors that must be taken into account. The risk of slippery slope from voluntary euthanasia (at the request of the competent patient) to non-voluntary euthanasia (without the consent of the incompetent patient) or involuntary (without regard to or against the consent of the competent patient) are real as confirmed by the Law Reform Commission of Canada which states :

"There is, first of all, a real danger that the procedure developed to allow the death of those who are a burden to themselves may be gradually diverted from its original purpose and eventually used as well to eliminate those who are a burden to others or to society. There is also the constant danger that the subject's consent to euthanasia may not really be a perfectly free and voluntary act ».

Eric Folot