- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The dying Dutchmen

Dutch Ambassador Boudewijn J. Van Eenennaam protests too much, to borrow from Hamlet's Queen Gertrude, in his attempt to discredit columnist Maggie Gallagher's evidence of murderous involuntary euthanasia in the Netherlands ("Columnist mounts unfair attack on euthanasia in Netherlands," April 16). The ambassador labels "unsubstantiated and tendentious" Miss Gallagher's shocking account of how Dutch doctors euthanized a hospitalized cancer patient without the patient's consent simply because they needed her bed.

If the ambassador wants to hear the above account firsthand as I did he can visit a Dutch hospice in the city of Arnhem and speak with Dr. Zbigniew Zylicz. Dr. Zylicz, a Polish-born specialist in internal medicine and oncology, recounted for me the incident that ended the life of one of his elderly patients and irreversibly changed the direction of his own life and career:

"It was a case in an academic hospital. She was afraid to go to the hospital because she was afraid of euthanasia. She was not asking for this; she did not even want this. And they promised her that nothing would happen to her," he told me.

"I admitted her on the weekend to a bed of another patient who would be coming back Monday morning. I had no other facility for her. She was very ill, and I expected she would die on the weekend. But she improved. With good treatment and pain control, she started to talk, and she was not dead."

The woman's improvement proved short-lived because Dutch doctors already had begun to believe their mission was not just to be healers, but killers as well.

"On Monday morning when I went off from my shift and went home," Dr. Zylicz recalls, "my colleague came and did something. I don't know exactly what he did, but she died within 10 minutes. And the nurses called me at home. They were very upset about this. And I was very upset about this, too."

The Polish doctor's religious convictions would not let him live with a sanctioned assault on the sanctity of human life.
"I said, 'This kind of medicine, I really [cannot live with].' So I quit my job. This was a horrible moment for me and also for my family. But I was not able to work in this [situation]. And this was not the only single case. This was the whole system working like this," he told me.

Rather than surrendering to a twisted medical system that robbed patients of their lives, Dr. Zylicz launched a faith-based hospice as an alternative to state-sponsored suicide. His work drew international attention and acclaim, and even many of his own Dutch colleagues began to concede belatedly that perhaps palliative care was a superior alternative to euthanasia.

If the ambassador wants more evidence of Dutch euthanasia tragedies, he should examine his own government's revealing Remmelink report, which documents more than 1,000 cases of involuntary, medically induced deaths a year.

Still, the Dutch find it hard to believe that their dikes of regulations aren't holding back the tide of medical murders flooding their land. So, instead of reform, the government has stepped up its public-relations campaign about euthanasia, minimized the mounting evidence of human tragedies, and provided legal sanction to medical killing.

Dutch patients desperately need protection and care, not propaganda and coverups. Something is rotten in the Netherlands.

Senior policy analyst
Christian Medical Association
Springfield, Va.

The assertions in the April 16 letter to the editor "Columnist [Maggie Gallagher] mounts unfair attack on euthanasia in Netherlands," from Netherlands Ambassador Boudewijn J. Van Eenennaam, are misguided beyond belief.

Ten years ago, I spent several weeks in the Netherlands interviewing the top people on both sides of the euthanasia debate. They disagreed strongly on the morality of euthanasia, but everyone was remarkably candid about how routine it had become and how readily the laws were flouted.

The ambassador claims, "The main requirements are that the request must be voluntary, the physical suffering must be unbearable with no prospect for improvement, and the request must be reviewed by a second, non-treating physician." That may be how the statute reads, but as Dr. Pieter Admiraal, at one time the nation's leading proponent (and practitioner) of euthanasia, told me, in reality "the courts are never against you" if you commit euthanasia.

In one famous case, three nurses at the Free University Hospital of Amsterdam killed several comatose patients. There was no possibility of consent, no suffering, and no doctor's opinion. Yet, at trial, the nurses were found guilty only of acting without the guidance of a physician.

Even a decade ago, convictions for involuntary euthanasia were so difficult to obtain and those that were obtained were so consistently reversed by higher courts that prosecutors essentially threw their hands up and stopped even trying. The term "voluntary" has become so meaningless that even babies with serious but fixable birth defects often are killed, and the pressure on old people to "give consent" is tremendous.

I love the Dutch people and have visited their country many times. However, my own research and volumes of published material show that in the Netherlands, a medical license is a license to kill.

Senior fellow
The Hudson Institute

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