Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Euthanasia requests in The Netherlands more than double in six years.

A recent brief report from Dutch News says that there were 4188 reported requests for euthanasia in 2012. This is more than double the number in 2006.

The news report curiously says that the numbers have ‘risen steadily’ since 2006. In a simple linear growth line, this represents an extra 377 deaths each year and year-on-year for each of the six years since the 2006 report. While this may or may not indicate a ‘steady rise’ cannot be determined from the report’s data, however, other adverbs come to mind, such as precipitously or steeply.

The report says that, “Researchers have been unable to determine why the number of cases is rising, but say they suspect it is due to greater acceptance of euthanasia by both patients and doctors.” Quite. At one level this is simply stating the obvious, but it also confirms the reality that the practice of euthanasia, once widely accepted (akin to any other medical treatment) becomes routine.

Remember, it was in 2012 that the ‘mobile euthanasia teams’ began; the press releases at the time claiming that these teams would carry out 1000 euthanasia deaths a year.

Also worth considering is the relaxation of the Groningen protocol (for the euthanasia of newborns) to include euthanasia to put parents’ out of their misery. The Dutch Medical Association estimated that there might be up to 650 cases a year for this extended child-euthanasia (the Groningen Protocol, established in 2005 was said to be responsible for the deaths of about 25 newborns with spina bifida each year.)


Again, from the news report:
A large majority of last year's requests came from people with cancer - 3,251. In 42 cases, people with dementia were involved and 13 had severe psychiatric problems.In just 10 cases, the committees ruled doctors had not met all the conditions for assisted suicide and involved health ministry inspectors. Two of these related to dementia patients and the difficulty of ensuring they had given informed consent.
A 2012 meta-analysis published in the Lancet and reviewing the 2010 Dutch statistics concluded that 23% of euthanasia deaths are not reported. (see article HERE) If that percentage holds, then the real euthanasia figures would be 5151.

(note: approximately 12% of requests are refused in Holland)

Another feature of the recent Dutch statistics has been the steep increase in deaths by way of Continuous Deep Sedation. Not only is the practice questionable, the steep increase in use suggests that something of this number may in fact involve deliberate killing; some even suggesting that the increase in the use of continuous deep sedation actually masks a significantly higher true rate of euthanasia.

The article closes by stating the ‘official position’: Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions. For example, the patient must be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.

Occasionally you will hear the shrill cry from a pro-euthanasia advocate that echoes the above line. I’ve even heard some, when faced with the larger story, say ‘But that’s illegal’, as if to say that what we see happening in the Netherlands isn’t really a problem with the law (which works just fine) but rather one of enforcement. There may be some truth to that; but, once again, it’s not the full story. One can only conclude, I believe, is that what we are seeing is essentially part of the DNA of any euthanasia regime – it’s inexorable.

I recall a month or so back that one of my feisty daughters confronted a pro-euthanasia advocate at her stand in our city mall. When she explained the kind of information above, the woman actually agreed that The Netherlands and Belgian regimes had significant problems. She added, of course, that we’d do it better here. As my sons would say: ‘Yeah! Right!

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