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Dutch Euthanasia Deaths Up Significantly to 2,500, Number Still Underreported

by Steven Ertelt | WASHINGTON, DC | LIFENEWS.COM | 1/4/10 9:00 AM

Bioethics

Dutch Euthanasia Deaths Up Significantly to 2,500, Number Still Underreported

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 4
, 2010

Amsterdam, (LifeNews.com) – The number of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands rose significantly in 2009 compared with 2008. There were reportedly 200 more deaths under the law, but pro-life advocates say those numbers are likely lowball estimates given the underreporting in the Dutch system.

The Dutch News indicates approximately 2,500 people died via euthanasia in 2009, but the actual number is unknown because the government estimates about 20 percent of cases are not reported.

The new government figures also include six registered cases of euthanasia on elderly patients with senile dementia, all of whom were supposedly in the early stages and able to make their wishes to die known.

In Holland, patients wanting to be killed must be in unbearable pain, the physician must sign off on the patient making an informed choice, and a second physician must certify the doctor’s findings.

Alex Schadenberg of the Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, discussed the new numbers.

He says the number of people dying in the Netherlands is higher because assisted suicide figures are not included. If they are included, another 500 people should be added to the 2,500 who were killed last year via euthanasia.

He also says deaths without explicit consent are not included and pointed to the most recent government report from 2005 showing 550 deaths are directly and intentionally caused by the physician but not reported as euthanasia because they lacked consent.

Schadenberg also notes that, as of 2007, approximately 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands were connected to the practice of terminal sedation.

"Many of those deaths were caused by dehydration, due to the physician sedating the patient and then withholding hydration until death occurs, which usually takes 10 – 14 days," he said.

Meanwhile, the Dutch News report "acknowledged that people with dementia are dying by euthanasia in the Netherlands, but the article didn’t mention how many infants died by euthanasia in 2009," he pointed out.

"The Groningen Protocol allows infants who are born with disabilities to die by euthanasia based on the request of the parents and the agreement of the physician," he said.

Schadenberg said he is "concerned that since the Netherlands does not collect information concerning the euthanasia of people with disabilities, we therefore ask the question, how many people with disabilities are coerced into death by euthanasia based on a false concept that living with a disability is a life of suffering."

American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith also commented on the new numbers.

He says he has seen studies showing as many as 50 percent of all euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands going unreported — meaning the lowball figures Schadenberg says are higher could be higher still.

Smith says he finds it "amazing" that the "number of euthanasia deaths are under-reported because non voluntary and involuntary euthanasia don’t count as euthanasia because the patient didn’t consent."

"And that isn’t all. As Alex notes, these statistics don’t include the unduly high numbers of terminal sedation deaths–palliative sedation used not as a legitimate pain control technique but as back door euthanasia," Smith continued.

"I would also point out that Dutch doctors refer patients they don’t want to euthanize with how-to-commit-suicide information," Smith added.

For Smith, "Here’s the bottom line: The Dutch prove that once euthanasia consciousness is accepted, there is ultimately no real control."

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