Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dutch Patients Killed Without Requesting Euthanasia

From "Dutch Euthanasia" by Wes Smith, posted 4/2/07, at First Things

n his book Seduced by Death, Herbert Hendin reported that one reason the Dutch people have not turned against their euthanasia law is that doctors and the media in Holland do not candidly report about the many abuses and violations of the law that occur with regard to their country’s euthanasia policy.

A recent news report on Radio Netherlands, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of formal legalization, gives a good example. It contained no discussion of the approximately 1,000 patients who, without requesting euthanasia, are nonetheless killed by Dutch doctors. It contained no discussion of the Dutch Supreme Court permitting the depressed to be assisted in suicide. It contained no substantive dissent at all.

It did, however, contain quotations from Dr. Bert Keizer, author of the book Dancing with Mr. D, in which he describes his euthanasia work as a nursing home doctor. He said, for instance, “People who ask for euthanasia are not put under pressure, they are under the burden of suffering.”

...Here’s another form of pressure: Not telling a patient about the ability to control pain, or even waiting for a final diagnosis before agreeing to kill a patient. Keizer is asked to euthanize Teus, a man whom he thinks—but does not know—has lung cancer. He discusses the case with his colleague on page 37, who asks if the patient is really suffering badly. “Is it for us to answer that question? All I know is that he wants to die more or less upright and that he doesn’t want to crawl to his grave the way a dog crawls howling to the sidewalk after he’s been hit by a car.

Patients with cancer do not have to die in this manner. Proper medical care would prevent it. But this is never mentioned to the patient. Nor, from what we read, does Keizer even know about the powers of morphine to control cancer pain. He doesn’t even discuss hospice with Teus or his family—which is outrageous negligence. Instead, as he describes on page 39, when Keizer gets ready to euthanize Teus, he will countenance no doubts: “I tell Jaarsma and De Goover [Keizer’s colleagues] that Teus is going to die that evening. Jaarsma seems sore but raises no objection. De Goover looks sharply at me, trying to work out how scared I am. If anyone so much as whispers ‘cortisone’ or ‘uncertain diagnosis,’ I’ll hit him.”

...Those we would kill, we must first dehumanize—or at least, we must divorce ourselves from their humanity. This abandoning ethic is repeatedly illustrated by Dr. Keizer’s book. Everyone who wants to read first hand about the cold, sterile, anti-human values intrinsic to the euthanasia movement should read his Dancing with Mr. D.

Without belief in moral absolutes (in this case the sanctity of human life), there is no bottom to this slippery slope...

Read the whole commentary.