The Dutch practice of euthanasia is not restricted to voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill, but has been shown to include nonvoluntary euthanasia for the `never-competent' adults and minors, non-terminally ill, disabled, depressed and the elderly. Such acts are executed both secretly (crypthanasia (1)) and openly in the Netherlands. The Remmelink study of euthanasia in the Netherlands revealed that physicians who resolved to medically end life, based their decisions on their own personal value system by judging some patients, a priori, to be only biologically alive (2) and thus having no quality of life.
Such doctors have opted to abandon care, and instead, euthanized their patients even though the patient had not requested to be killed. In response, the government plans to codify the practice of involuntary euthanasia. In 1993, a justice ministry report said:
The government is proposing to extend the reporting procedure to include active medical intervention to cut short life without an express request." Liesbeth Rensman, speaking for the ministry, said that could be a first step toward guidelines sanctioning involuntary euthanasia...[for] psychiatric patients and newborns with severe defects. (3)
Contradicting the above, Mr. A. Kors, of the Raadadviseur, Legislation and Public Law, told the House of Lords that
... the government held strongly to the position that euthanasia was not possible for incompetent patients. Euthanasia could not be requested by a proxy or in an advance directive-the patient's request must be current. (4)
The above position is deceptive since the evidence proves the practice of involuntary euthanasia is not only permitted, but widespread.
|INFANTICIDE IN THE NETHERLANDS: KILLING OF NEWBORN DISABLED|
A disabled child, known only by the name of `Baby Maarjte', was killed by the child's physicians. A translated account from De Telegraaf report follows (abstracts only):
In March of last year a team of five physicians at the Waterland Hospital at Purmerend (Waterlandziekenhuis in Purmerend) decided to terminate the life of a baby that suffered multiple handicaps. [The little girl was born with hydrocephalus, spina bifida, aggravated by "dwarslaesie", and deformed legs and feet.] This was done abruptly and at the explicit request of the parents. The gynaecologist, Dr. Henk Prins and his team made a conscious decision in this regard, and have no intention to avoid criminal prosecution, which is now being considered by the authorities. Very soon after the first shock, the great sorrow and the frightening prospect of life with a seriously handicapped child, the parents approached the medical staff of the hospital requesting to alleviate the pain of their child. On that occasion, says Dr. Prins, within a matter of hours after the child was born, termination of life immediately entered into the discussion. But, Dr. Prins emphasizes, only as a last resort, and after all other options had been exhausted. (5)
The options apparently discussed by Dr. Prins:
Technically speaking we could have operated, and the child might have lived for a few months, perhaps even a few years. But she would have had to have one operation after another, certainly the first year or two. It would have been an endless road of suffering and she would have been in constant pain. Certainly we could have closed the defective back. By means of drainage we could have alleviated the tension and pressure in her head. We could have given her antibiotics to prevent infections....(6)
Dr. Philippe Schepens, Secretary of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life (WFDRHL), commented that the complete
story of `Maartje' (little Martha)... shows us that (again in Holland) things go forward in the wrong direction....it is the start of recognition of infanticide as good medical practice ... this case is a start of a new jurisprudence about infanticide for "deformed babies", so that after abortion and euthanasia, people can be killed "for their own sake" without own request. Once this is achieved, all kinds of (more or less) ill and very ill people will be legally `allowed to be put down', actually as pets. (7)
Given the recent press of the infanticide of `Baby Maarjte', the public may be led to believe that this is a single incident - in fact it is not. Dr. Molenaar, the chief of neonatal care at the Sophia Pediatric Hospital, revealed that - 24 of 500 handicapped children were killed:
Doctors are permitted to use an injection of morphine.... (which is done in 3 out of 8 hospitals) and the Dutch Paediatric Society endorse the practice of euthanasia on `defective' infants. (8)
In 1992, Dr. Zier Versluys, head of the Dutch Pediatric Society, stated that "euthanasia is part of good medical practice in neonatology." (9) He says, "euthanasia are now routinely disguised as natural deaths to avoid possible prosecution", insisting that the "main problem is that we kept these children alive in the first place." (10) In the same article Versluys comments, "Both for the parents and the children, an early death is better than life." Versluys opined, "euthanasia on infants is practiced about 10 times a year." The Justice Ministry responded by saying, "the low incidence of euthanasia among this country's 200,000 live births a year makes guidelines unnecessary"." (11)
As early as 1975, "the Council State allowed euthanasia in certain instances of malformed newly-born infants. Abortion was not legalized until 1981." (12) The rationale for infanticide (or non treatment decisions in the United States and Canada) is poor prognosis. However,
A substantial body of evidence shows that time and time again predictions of a poor quality of life made at birth for a child with a disability are subsequently proved wrong. Too many examples have been adduced to be dismissed as isolated instances. (13)
In spite of what has been otherwise stated by the representatives of the Netherlands' government, such cases prove that euthanasia is not reserved to `patients who are in the final stages of a terminal illness'.
|BABY JANE DOE: A STRIKING PARALLEL|
A momentous investigation into complaints alleging that (USA) disabled citizens were discriminated against and denied equal protection (including being deprived of medical help), was completed and released under the title of Medical Discrimination Against Children with Disabilities. One compelling case included in this report, bears a striking resemblance to baby Maartje. It involved a infant known as `Baby Jane Doe, whose future, if she survived surgery, was "unremittingly bleak". (14)
Baby Jane Doe's parents engaged in one of the most highly publicized litigated cases concerning a disabled infant. Upon advise from the infant's physicians, the parents decided not to have life- saving surgery done on the infant and the case went to trial. Baby Jane Doe was diagnosed with "spina bifida", having "fluid on the brain" [hydrocephalus]; "an abnormally small brain"; and was "so severely deformed that there is nothing that can be done for her." (15) Dr. George Newman, a pediatric neurologist, told the court that:
she is not likely to ever achieve any meaningful interaction with her environment, nor ever achieve any interpersonal relationships....develop any cognitive skills... whatsoever. (16)
The Los Angeles Times reported that "Doctors say that without surgery the girl may live up to two years; with it she could live until she is 40 but she would be severely retarded, epileptic and paralyzed from the waist down, as well as in constant pain"." (17) American bioethicist Arthur Caplan, also questioned the `quality of life' of Baby Jane Doe. In his article, "Is it a Life?", Caplan said:
No one should be forced by the government, [or] civil libertarians ... to live such a life, even briefly.(18)
The court ruled in favor of the parents, and surgery was denied. An appeal was launched and a guardian ad litem was appointed. At conclusion, "the trial court judge ruled...It is clear...that the infant is in imminent danger, and that the infant has an independent right to survive; that right must be protected by the State acting the [parens] patriae, where a life is in jeopardy and the parents have elected to provide no surgical care...." (19) Nevertheless, that "decision ... was promptly overturned in the "States highest court, the New York Court of Appeals", who ruled:
There are overtones to this proceeding which we find distressing. Confronted with the anguish of the birth of a child with severe physical disorders, these parents, in consequence of judicial procedures for which there is no precedent or authority, have been subjected in the last two weeks to litigation through all three levels of our State's court system. We find no justification for resort to or entertainment of these proceedings. (20)However, in a surprising turn of events, the parents of Baby Jane Doe changed their minds and surgery followed - Baby Jane Doe had a shunt installed to close her back. Once her back was healed, "she was taken home." As she left the hospital, Dr. Newman had not changed his prognosis: "She will still be severely retarded and I still think, bedridden all the days of her life"." (21) By 1987, Baby Jane Doe (now known as Keri-Lynn), was not forgotten. It was said of Keri-Lynn when she was at age four "it is hard to recognize the pain-wracked, unaware, bedridden creature of her doctors' confident predictions...." (22 One reporter wrote:
Keri-Lynn talks and laughs; she smiles and hugs and screams and plants kisses firmly on a stranger's cheek. (23)
Charmed by her sweetness, another reporter wrote
...Later, she whispered, `Dance Daddy dance,' as her father swept her into his arms to sway to the music of Stevie Wonder. (24)
At the beginning of the chapter on Baby Jane Doe, contributors to this report referred to this case as not one to be "dismissed as isolated". Inaccurate prognosis can prove to be fatal. (25) The Baby Jane Doe case should lead us to somberly adjudicate the following:
In popular debate, the question whether children with disabilities should be denied lifesaving treatment has frequently been couched as though the issue were whether the government should intrude into matters of parental discretion. In fact, however, for decades the universally accepted law has been that when parents make treatment decisions that will undebatably lead to the death of their nondisabled children, the state will intervene to ensure the children's survival by mandating provision of life-saving medical care. It is only when the children have disabilities that the claim of parental autonomy is given serious sympathetic consideration. (26) (emphasis added)
No one can argue that an infant cannot defend his or her right to life. Yet many are classified as subhuman (27) and "better off dead." Still not one physician has been convicted for these murders. (28) Doctor Leo Alexander said, (see below) "The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived." (29)
1.) Crypthanasia, or mercy killing in secret, is practiced by doctors who have decided that the lives of some patients are not worth living. It seems that even the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society (DVES) would deny the existence of such practice. In an interview, Ms. Jannink- Kappelle, president of the Netherlands Voluntary Euthanasia Society (NVES) was asked, "The Remmelink Report, are you familiar with that?" "Yes", answered Kappelle. "Are there cases in the Remmelink that indicated that some people may have not requested.... [euthanasia]" "Yes - yes, that is one of the things we want to find out." Later in the same interview, in full denial, Kappelle said, "There is no involuntary euthanasia, there is no euthanasia. That is murder. " Video interview, The Slippery Slope, produced by American Life League]
2.) There is currently prominent dialogue in the United States and Canada about the expense of caring for the growing elderly population and the "biologically tenacious" - meaning those who don't die soon enough. For instance, "Cessation of nutrition may become the only effective way to make certain a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die." [Daniel Callahan, Hastings Report, October 1983] Sue Rodriguez' future was described by John Hofsess as becoming a "helpless, drooling, physically atrophied captive of this disease, dependent on other people and machines for an ever attenuated form of mere biological existence". The Globe and Mail, 19.9.92:D1.]
3.) Critics fear euthanasia soon needn't be requested, Vancouver Sun, 17.2.93, A10.
4.) Report of The Select Committee on Medical Ethics, (SCME) House of Lords, 1994, Vol.I, p.68.
5.) Taken from, Maartjes Lijden was voor niemand Aanvaardbaar, De Telegraaf, zaterday, 9 juli, 1994, p.19. See also, Onderzoek tegen arts in Purmerend na euthanasie op baby, De Telegraaf, 4, juli, 94, p.4; and, Gynaecoloog beschuldigd van moord op baby Maartje, De Telegraaf, 18, juli, 1994, p.3.
7.) Dr. Ph. Schepens, Ostend, Belgium, July 20, 1994, letter to Mrs. Eckstein (President of Compassionate Healthcare Network).
8.) An Appointment with Death, special documentary for Health Quarterly, Production of K.A. Production Inc., in association with T.V. ONTARIO, for FRONTLINE, 1993. Dr. Karel Gunning commented on this saying: "Indeed, Dr. Molenaar of the Sophia Paediatric Hospital in Rotterdam refused to operate on a Down syndrome newborn with atresia of the esophagus, causing it to die from starvation, and was declared not guilty by the courts. The Dutch Paediatric Society, following the Dutch Medical Association (KNMG), approved of withholding treatment to a severely handicapped newborn. They even questioned if the doctor who started treatment on such a child should be corrected." [COMPASSIONATE HEALTHCARE NETWORK, CHN FACTS-BRIEF, Jan.94, Issue No.6, p.6]
9.) [Pediatric report reignites debate: Dutch guidelines for mercy killing would grant immunity to doctors involved, Calgary Herald, July 30, 1992.]
11.) Id. Also, in another report, Versluys said, "For these babies, life is a threat, not a perspective...its a very difficult thing to do, but sometimes care is helping a baby die." The report said "Versluys is seeking `clear criteria' that - while not legalizing the mercy killing of newborns outright - would exonerate doctors from prosecution." [Permission sought to kill badly handicapped infants, The Vancouver Sun, August 8, 1992, p.A10 (emphasis added)]
12.) Ph. Schepens, M.D., Euthanasia, Our Own Future?, p.374.
13.) MEDICAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, A Report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, September 1989, p.40. See also: A government sponsored experiment in North America, allowed doctors to select which children born with spina bifida, (based solely on the economic circumstances of the parents), would not be treated. John R. Woodward said, "the doctors arbitrarily assumed that poor families offered a quality of life so much lower than that of middle-class and wealthy families that babies with spina bifida born into them were better off dead.":
American doctors once conducted an experiment that proved you can kill the disabled babies of poor families and get away with it. Their research was funded by the Federal Government. Twenty-four babies with spina bifida lost their lives. The experiment was declared a success. Yes it can happen here. Between 1977 and 1982, four doctors and a social worker at the Children's Hospital of Okalahoma, in Oklahoma city, monitored the births of babies with myelomeningocele (the medical term for spina bifida). Parents who were poor were told that it would not be appropriate to treat their baby and given an extremely pessimistic picture of their child's future life. Parents from better-off families were told more about the treatments for spina bifida and given more information about their child's potential. None of the parents knew they were part of an experiment. Parents who were assigned to the "pessimistic outcome" group chose, by a factor of nearly five to one, not to have their babies with spina bifida treated. The experiment was not conducted to prove that babies with spina bifida will die if they are not treated. Doctors already knew that. The goal of the experiment was to prove that the families would accept a "do-not-treat" recommendation from their doctors. [John R. Woodward, It can happen here, The Disability Rag & Resource, Jan/Feb 1994, p. 16. (emphasis added).]
14.) Medical Discrimination Against Children with Disabilities, A Report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, September 1989, p.40. (Although the Baby Jane Doe case is highlighted, many other such cases are recounted in this report, with similar `happy' endings.
19.) Id., supra at 59.
20.) Id., supra at 60.
21.) Id., supra at 40.
23.) Id., supra at 40-41.
25.) Id., supra at 39.
26.) Id., supra, at 60. Also, notably the British Paediatric Association hold to the opinion that because of certain situations, "Parents may sometimes place their own or their family's interests above those of their child...At such times pediatricians may have to challenge parental decisions, because their duty is always to act in the best interest of the child." [Report of The Select Committee on Medical Ethics, House of Lords, 1994, Vol.II, p.36.
27.) Harvard University physician, Dr. Dwight Harken, who specializes in open heart surgery, spoke to the Medica Canada' 83 conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He recommended that 300,000 North American "human vegetables" should be allowed to die from starvation. Dr. Harken also recommended screening patients in "nursing homes", by a trained medical team would ensure that "only the hopeless cases were let go." A Canadian physician, Dr. David Roy, said that "deformed babies should not be shoved into corners to starve and scream themselves to death", but that "Fatal doses should be administered if that's what is required to let a patient die comfortable." [`Human vegetables' should starve, The Columbian, 1.6.83]
28.) Most prosecutions for cases of "mercy killing" end in "sentimental acquittal." For a overview of sentimental acquittals, see Yale Kamisar, Some Non-Religious Views Against Proposed "Mercy-Killing" Legislation, Death, Dying, and Euthanasia, Edited by Dennis J. Horan et al, University Pub. Inc. 1977, pp.406 ff.
29.) Leo Alexander, Medical Science under Dictatorship, The New England Journal of Medicine, July 14, 1949, Vol. 241, No.2 p.44
is researched and edited by Cheryl Eckstein, president of CHN and is copyright of the Compassionate Healthcare Network
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