DUTCH EUTHANASIA PIONEER DISTURBED BY KILL RATES
Dementia patients too often being killed wrongfully
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (ChurchMilitant.com) – The pioneer for legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands is denouncing a lack of ethics as legal safeguards for vulnerable patients erode.
Dutch euthanasia pioneer and psychiatrist Boudewijn Chabot wrote an opinion piece Friday that described the “worrisome rate” at which dementia and psychiatric patients are killed. He claims the legal safeguards protecting the vulnerable are being quietly eroded. He also claims panels reviewing the requests are concealing incidents of wrongful death.
Chabot is most worried about the increase in euthanasia of dementia patients. While he considers the numbers to be relatively small — with 141 killed in 2016 — diagnostic tests are identifying age-related chronic psychiatric diseases earlier. Thus, this more often leads to a large increase in the number of patients with “incurable” conditions. And the cost for years of medical care can lead to financial devastation adversely affecting the patient’s quality of life. He predicts “this could cause a skyrocketing increase in the number of euthanasia cases.”
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Chabot notes these patients are not euthanized in hospitals but mostly in the country’s End of Life Clinics. Like abortion mills, the doctors there do not provide care for the patient but only purport to alleviate suffering by killing him. Doctors and patients soon learn the keywords and phrases to use to get the desired result.
“Within the End of Life Clinic, a group culture has emerged in which euthanasia is regarded as virtuous labor,” says Chabot.
Chabot was prosecuted for the 1991 assisted suicide of a 50-year-old healthy woman suffering from “existential distress.” Though he was found guilty of the crime, he wasn’t punished. The case became a landmark, however, leading to the Euthanasia Act of 2002, which legalized assisted suicide in the Netherlands.
Since its legalization, the Netherlands has steadily loosened its restrictions on assisted suicide. In 2016, it looked into expanding the age range for children to be euthanized, broadening it from age 12 all the way down to age one.
Chabot explains that “lawful” euthanasia must fulfill three criteria, the first being that the patient must make a voluntary and deliberate request; second, he must be experiencing unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement; and third, there must be no reasonable alternative treatment.
Chabot notes that dementia patients are put to death mostly by doctors and the End of Life Clinics, not in hospitals. He says since the standards for physical illnesses are being used for psychiatric illnesses, the clinic’s psychiatrists won’t need to enter into a treatment relationship with patients before prescribing death. A psychiatrist himself, he says it is difficult to determine if a death wish is “serious and enduring,” even with a developed patient-doctor relationship.
Chabot sees the shift in thinking in the comment made by Govert Hartogh, an ethicist from the evaluation committee: “The patient suffers unbearably when he says he suffers unbearably, and an alternative is not a reasonable alternative if the patient rejects it.”
With this comment, Chabot notes that the patient’s own judgment of suffering is given the most weight, similar to what the abortion industry has done with the woman’s evaluation of “distress” in order to get an abortion.
What worries Chabot is the recent development that prior written consent for euthanasia is now taken to have the same weight as verbal consent. The patients’ own determinations of “unbearable suffering” as well as his written consent now being sufficient, “the door has been opened wide for euthanasia of patients with severe dementia.”
One other troubling aspect is that in cases where dementia patients are being killed without their express consent and against their wishes, the review committees are not identifying the execution as wrongful. Chabot notes that dementia patients are being secretly drugged prior to the arrival of doctors, either by the family or by the doctors themselves, to avoid resistance by the patients. This technique is used to execute patients with severe neurological disabilities to get around consent laws.
In one case, the doctor put sleep medication in a patient’s coffee, but the woman woke up just before the injection and began to fight off the doctor. The family was called in to hold the woman down so they could administer the lethal dose. The doctor claimed the procedure was done with “care.”
Current rates of doctor prescribed euthanasia at clinics are about one per doctor per month. Chabot wonders what happens to the doctors when prescribing death becomes “routine.” He believes they may have good intentions, but they might be “fuel[ing] the death wish in vulnerable people who are still trying to live with their disabilities.”