EUTHANASIA - THE SAFE AND EASY DEATH?

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bulletNazi' jibe over Dutch death vote
bulletLive and let die is new Dutch religion
bulletEuthanasia and the law  
bulletDutch minister favours suicide pill 
bullet'Dying the Dutch way 

 

 

Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK 

bullet'Nazi' jibe over Dutch death vote 

The Dutch law seeks to play God, say opponents The Netherlands has been hailed and vilified in reaction from around Europe, after becoming the first country to legalise euthanasia. 

The Dutch senate gave formal approval to the new law on Tuesday evening by 46 votes to 28. 

Supporters of the right to die have praised the Dutch for their "sensible and humanitarian" stance. 

But others said the plan had echoes of Nazi Germany, where disabled people were systematically killed. "Such a selection was made by Nazi Germans in concentration camps," said leading Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek. 'Dangerously comfortable' 

"It is an attempt by man to correct God. Human life is not in our hands, because we are not the giver of life." An Austrian Catholic charity, Caritas, said the decision was a dangerously comfortable path", where getting rid of sufferers was more important than easing their pain. And the Dutch Christian Patient Organisation said some people were beginning to feel pressured into asking for euthanasia. 

But for euthanasia supporters, the Dutch move was a breakthrough. In Belgium, which is preparing to debate easing the law on euthanasia, a right-to-die spokesman said the Dutch experience "illuminates our debate even if differences exist." Figures from Belgium suggest that around 72% of the population supports euthanasia, with around 84% in France expressing similar backing.  (Let's remember, 100% of the lemmings went over the cliff, Ed.)

Dutch polls suggested around 90% support. Jacob Kohnstamm, president of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said he had received thousands of supportive letters and e-mails from countries including the UK, France and Belgium. "Someone has to be first. There's nothing to be proud of and nothing to be ashamed of... 

Within 25 years, most countries will have a euthanasia law," he said. Global attention has also been focused on the Dutch decision. In New Zealand, a member of parliament said he might introduce a private member's bill based on the Dutch law. "I think the new Dutch law is very sensible and humanitarian," said MP Chris Carter. "It provides safeguards but also recognises that individuals have the freedom to choose when they have suffered enough."  

(be sure to read all the articles on this page -  example "Elderly people who are "tired of life" should be allowed to kill themselves with a suicide pill, the Dutch health minister has said" and the primary rule "the patient must have an incurable illness".  Also in other places CHN reports the Dutch practice of infanticide -  Ed.)

The Dutch law empowers terminally ill people with an option. I would like to have that choice." Dutch assurances Dutch Health Minister Els Borst has insisted that it will not be possible for doctors to abuse the new law, because of careful supervisory provisions. Supporters of the law also say it will only give a legal framework to what is already happening in reality. 

Under the new law, euthanasia would be allowed under specific conditions: the patient must have an incurable illness he or she must be experiencing "unbearable suffering" the patient must be of sound mind and have given consent the termination of life must then be carried out in a medically appropriate manner. The legislation goes into force when the Dutch monarch, Queen Beatrix, signs the law and its details are published in the official media, a process expected to take about two weeks. Search BBC News Online http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1272000/1272143.stm

 

Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK 

bullet Live and let die is new Dutch religion By Yasha Lange 

Call it pragmatic tolerance. The Dutch appear to be world leaders in the field of progressive attitudes. The sale of limited amounts of soft drugs has already been tolerated for years. Last year, prostitution was legalised. Last week gays could officially marry. And now the senate has approved the legalisation of euthanasia - under strict conditions, it should be said. Are the Dutch really that progressive? First and foremost, they are pragmatic. Take prostitution. The Dutch tend to think that it will happen anyway, whether they prohibit it or not. So they legalise it - to prevent prostitution from going underground, to have access to the prostitutes, promote condoms and hygiene and to prevent mistreatment of women forced to work as prostitutes. The logic is simple - tolerate it, rather than prohibit it and subsequently lose control. 

The same line of reasoning applies to soft drugs and euthanasia: people will smoke soft drugs, so it might be better to educate them about it openly; doctors will be faced with requests from people who would prefer to end their suffering, so perhaps better be realistic about it. It is not a coincidence that several of these laws have been passed in recent years. For the first time in a century, the Christian Democrats are not in the coalition government. Individual freedom and equality for all are the norms for the current coalition of liberals and social democrats.

Christian values no longer determine public policy - and indeed, merely a third of the Dutch are members of a church. This pragmatic tolerance has a historical reason, too. 

Amsterdam is traditionally a city of immigrants. Jews from Spain and French protestants found a safe haven, centuries ago. More importantly, Amsterdam is a city where trade has always been more important than ideology or religion - overly strong views would only hamper relations. That attitude is still visible today. Moreover, being small and internationally-orientated, the Dutch quite simply had to be able to associate with different cultures, sail the seas, learn other languages and accept differences. Hence the tolerant attitude. Sex education Sex at a young age, is another good example of the same tolerance. Undesirable according to many, but treated pragmatically by the Dutch. Kids will have sex, whether you like it or not. So, at 12 years old, they get education and can go to a clinic to get contraceptives. Anonymously, if they want. Their parents won't know. Does this stimulate Dutch adolescents to have sex at a younger age, as critics might claim? No. Dutch youngsters have their first sexual experience relatively late. And more importantly, the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies among teenagers is the lowest in the world. Yashe Lange is a correspondent on the Netherlands NRC newspaper

The British House of Lords, (1994), out of hand rejected euthanasia, and furthermore, rejected establishing a new offence of mercy killing, concluding that, "To distinguish between murder and "mercy killing" would be to cross the line which prohibits any intentional killing, a line which we think it essential to preserve. Nor do we believe that "mercy killing" could be adequately defined, since it would involve determining precisely what constituted a compassionate motive. For these reasons we do not recommend the creation of a new offence." [House of Lords, Report of the Select Committee on Medical Ethics, (1994) HL Paper 21-1, Vol.I p.53]

 

Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 11:14 GMT 

bullet Euthanasia and the law 

What is the law on deliberate euthanasia in Britain and other European states? Ursula Smartt, senior lecturer in law at Thames Valley University in West London, explains. Apart from in The Netherlands, euthanasia is against the law, and classed as a criminal act. Euthanasia is popularly taken to mean the practice of helping severely-ill people die, either at their request or by taking the decision to withdraw life support. 

The definition under Dutch law is narrower - it means the termination of life by a doctor at the express and voluntary wish of a patient. 

Since the Dutch Supreme Court declared in 1984 that voluntary euthanasia is acceptable, the law allows a standard defence from doctors if they have adhered to ten clearly defined official guidelines and conditions. 

Intentions 

These hinge on the intentions of the person wanting to die, on the request and whether or not the suffering is relievable. It is not a condition that the patient is terminally ill or that the suffering is physical. 

Citizens from other countries are not eligible for euthanasia in Holland. Other European countries do not allow euthanasia even if a patient wants to die - as a matter of public policy, the victim's consent does not provide a defence in the UK

Deliberate euthanasia would normally leave anyone assisting liable for murder, though liability can be reduced to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility. 

Within English law, a difference is made between acting and refraining to act.

 Withdrawing care 

Passive euthanasia (UK definition =non voluntary euthanasia) is when treatment to which the patient has not consented is ended.

 A landmark ruling came in the 1993 Bland case. Anthony Bland was a 17-year-old left severely brain damaged after the 1989 Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster. His parents and the hospital authority concerned sought permission from the High Court to withdraw the artificial nutrition and hydration that was keeping him alive. The High Court and the House of Lords agreed.

 Active euthanasia occurs when treatment is administered with the intention of ending the patient's life.

 In a 1985 trial known as Dr Arthur's Case, a Down's syndrome baby, John Pearson, was rejected by the mother soon after birth. Dr Arthur, a highly respected paediatrician, prescribed a sedative designed to stop the child seeking sustenance. The child was given water but no food, and died just over two days after birth. Dr Arthur said in a statement that the purpose of the drug was to reduce suffering.

 Murder charge 

The case revolved around whether the doctor should let the severely-ill baby die of natural causes, in this case an ill-formed intestine, or allow him to die painlessly Initially, Dr Arthur was charged with murder by poisoning - later the charge was reduced to attempted murder. The prosecution argued that though there was no intentional murder, the doctor had declined to operate to save the child's life and the child should have been left to die of natural causes. Instead, the doctor had administered a drug which had caused the eventual death of the child. 

Professor Campbell, an expert witness at the trial, argued: "There is an important difference between allowing a child to die and taking action to kill it." Dr Arthur was acquitted by the jury at Leicester Crown Court. It was decided that he had not committed the act of 'positive euthanasia', he had merely prescribed a drug, which had resulted in the peaceful death of the child.

 There have been so far only a few court cases revolving around the question of euthanasia. The true extent of how many people are helped to die is far from clear. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/background_briefings/euthanasia/newsid_1044000/1044740.stm

 

bulletDutch minister favours suicide pill April 14, 2001 Web posted at: 10:18 AM EDT (1418 GMT) AMSTERDAM, 

The Netherlands -- 

Elderly people who are "tired of life" should be allowed to kill themselves with a suicide pill, the Dutch health minister has said. "I am not against it, as long as it can be carefully enough regulated so that it only concerns very old people who have had enough of living," Els Borst told the NRC Handelsblad newspaper on Saturday. Borst said a suicide pill should only be permitted, however, if the person administered it themselves and there was a test to ensure they really were tired of life and desperate to die, she said. 

Her remarks come just days after the Dutch parliament made history by making euthanasia legal. It voted on Tuesday to allow doctors to kill patients with terminal diseases who are suffering "unbearably" and if they request it has prompted angry protests. 

Although it recognised a practice tolerated in the Netherlands for over two decades, the decision parked outrage in some other countries, with comparisons to the policies of Nazi Germany which systematically killed handicapped adults and children. 

Borst insisted that allowing suicide pills for the aged and world-weary was not euthanasia. "Being tired of life has nothing to do with the euthanasia law, with medicine and doctors. You may be releasing someone from their suffering, but it is a suffering that has no link with illness or handicap," she said in the interview. 

Borst said the subject was not a matter for the health minister, "but it could well be that a justice minister says: 'I want to allow people to end it all'." She said she would be in favour of that, so long as the person could administer the pill themselves and there was a test to check they fulfilled the right criteria.

 She cited the example of two 95-year-old people she had known. "They were bored stiff but, alas, not bored to death -- because that was indeed what they wanted most of all." One of them had no family to speak of, Borst said. "If she had said 'I've got a pill here and I'm going to take it', I would certainly have been at peace with that." 

The main opposition Christian Democrats (CDA) party was swift to express dismay at Borst's remarks. "It's only a couple of days since the euthanasia law was voted in, and already the minister wants to go a step further," the Dutch news agency ANP quoted Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, CDA parliamentary party leader, as saying. 

The Dutch believe legalising euthanasia will clear up a clouded area of law that had left open the possibility of doctors being prosecuted for murder. 

The new law insists:

-patients must be adults,

-have made a voluntary, well-considered and lasting request to die

- the patient must have an incurable illness

 -must be facing a future of unbearable suffering

-there must be no reasonable alternative.

-A second doctor must be consulted and life must be ended in a medically appropriate way. 

The Vatican denounced the Dutch parliament's decision as an "aberrant" and "macabre" decision. "We find it hard to believe that such a macabre choice can be seen as a 'civil' and 'humanitarian' one," the Vatican daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, wrote in an editorial.

 "Killing a patient is a criminal act" and doctors conducting mercy killings are similar to "executioners." 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

 

bullet'Dying the Dutch way April 16, 2001 Web posted at: 12:21 p.m. EDT (1621 GMT) by Jeffrey P. Kahn, Ph.D., M.P.H. Director, Center for Bioethics University of Minnesota 

The Dutch senate voted this week on euthanasia, passing into law a bill that had been approved by the lower house of parliament last fall. 

With the vote, the Netherlands becomes the first country in the world to legalize voluntary euthanasia. Though the law outlines strict criteria that must be followed before the request for euthanasia is granted, many critics voiced their concern about allowing one person to kill another, the role of physicians, and how the policy might be abused. 

Passage of the law brings into the public arena a practice that has been going on for many years in the Netherlands, although until now has not been formally endorsed by the government. It rekindles the debate about how far individuals should be allowed to control their life and death, and who if anyone should be allowed to help them. 

Should the Dutch be proud or ashamed of their historic first, and what will it mean for the rest of Europe and the world? 

Making policy for euthanasia Debates about helping people die are not new, and neither is euthanasia in the Netherlands. In 1993 the Dutch parliament adopted guidelines under which doctors engaging in voluntary euthanasia would not be prosecuted -- this week's vote turned those guidelines into law. 

Among the rules that must be satisfied for legal voluntary euthanasia: the patient's request for euthanasia must be voluntary and persist over time the patient's suffering must be unbearable and untreatable the patient must be adequately informed of his or her condition, prognosis and medical options the decision must be reached in an ongoing relationship between the doctor and patient there must be consultation with at least one other physician the death must be carried out in a medically appropriate fashion 

Enabling choice or devaluing life? 

Does such a policy empower people to choose how best to die or does it devalue life by making death too easy? 

The Dutch policy permits patients to request that euthanasia be performed if they become physically unable to make their wishes known when the time comes. This is intended to make sure patients have their wishes honored, but also turns over to the physician discretion about when to perform death. 

Requiring at least two physicians to decide offers some safeguard, but removing the final decision from patients opens the door for potential missteps, especially since legalization of euthanasia may lead to an expectation that patients will use it. 

Should doctors prescribe death? 

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of legalized euthanasia is the confusion of roles it may create for physicians. Should doctors be healers as well as killers? 

Some critics claim that doctors acting as agents of death and health at the same time can only undermine trust in the medical profession. But that trust is between doctors and their patients, and many patients hope they can rely on their doctor to help them whatever their condition requires -- treatments to cure or prevent disease as well as treatments to relieve pain and suffering, which may include hastening the end of life. 

The question is not whether any of us must choose death but whether we may, and whether we can enlist our physician in the process. 

Whatever any of us thinks about the choice of euthanasia, the Netherlands has opened the next stage of debate over assisted death, by becoming the first country to legalize it. How far should we be permitted to go in controlling the time and manner of our death, and what is the role of the state in preventing or aiding our decision? The Dutch now know the answer to these questions -- the rest of us must wait and wonder. The Dutch senate has endorsed a law on euthanasia, making it the first country in the world to legally allow it. To what degree should individuals be allowed to control their life and their death, and who if anyone should help them? Should the Dutch be proud or ashamed of their historic first, and what will it mean for the rest of Europe and the world?  Jeffrey P. Kahn, Ph.D., M.P.H. Director, Center for Bioethics University of Minnesota 

 

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  Euthanasia debate after Dutch decision April 11, 2001

  Euthanasia move sparks protests April 11, 2001 

Australia's 'Dr. Death' proposes euthanasia boat April 11, 2001 

Belgian patients 'given lethal injections

 

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