- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2001

The Dutch have just appointed their physicians doctors of death. The Senate in the Netherlands voted to pass a law last week allowing physicians to end patients lives if they have terminal "unbearable suffering." In so doing, the Netherlands has become the first country to legalize assisted suicide and to turn medicine from the purpose of healing to one of killing.
According to the new law, a patient has to request that they want to be killed, and then have two doctors prescribe the same "solution." How does the doctor know that the patient qualifies? If the doctor deems there is no other medical treatment, then "the doctor will have to try to imagine what the patient is feeling …" to determine whether their suffering is unbearable, according to the embassy of the Netherlands. The "right to die" now becomes a matter of the doctors ability, or lack thereof, to get inside the patients body to feel his pain.
But isnt the doctor just following through on the patients own informed desire to die? Not necessarily. Doctors can decide to kill willing patients aged 12 and above, those suffering from psychological illnesses and those suffering from dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimers disease. The doctor decides whether to kill the patient on a case by case basis "in light of prevailing medical opinion." What has been the history of prevailing medical opinion in the Netherlands? In many cases, the patients "willingness" to be killed has not been a precondition. For instance, the Dutchs governments 1991 euthanasia report cites 1,040 people who were killed by doctors who did not have a request from the patient. Another 8,100 deaths were not reported as assisted suicide, but resulted from doctors prescribing drug overdoses to bring death. It is estimated that around 3,500 patients have been killed a year for the past decade through euthanasia. For the past 20 years, doctors could not be charged for what was on the books as a criminal offense because of an arrangement with prosecutors that prevented the jail time as long as they followed certain guidelines.
So why go to the trouble of legalizing a common practice? The new law, a Dutch embassy official said, makes the doctors innocent until proven guilty, while the old arrangement assumed the doctors guilt until proven otherwise. The embassys web site explained further: "The aim of exempting doctors from prosecution is to ensure that they no longer feel like criminals and can act openly and honestly in relation to requests for euthanasia, provided that their decision-making and medical procedures satisfy the statutory due care criteria."
All this killing was, so to speak, giving a few doctors indigestion. They were killing, and felt like murderers. So the Dutch legislators wrote up a little guilt-free prescription for more of the same. Now, the new laws advocates argue, the euthanasia review committees (appointed by the minister of justice and the minister of health, welfare and sport) will make sure the doctors only kill patients matching all the due care criteria put forth by the new law. The only problem is, the patient is long dead by the time the review committee would notify the Public Prosecution Service.
For Europe, all this has haunting implications. From the religious community to politicians to the press, there was an outcry in Germany against a government-approved euthanasia practice. While the Nazis secretly eliminated 100,000 men, women and children who were physically or mentally handicapped between 1939 and 1941, the Dutch are now openly embracing the killing of children, the aged, and the psychologically challenged. Among the victims of the Nazi regime were the Dutch themselves.
Dutch parliamentarians have shown they have decided not to remember those lessons. With this new law, life in the Netherlands has been cheapened.


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