Dutch Doctors Refuse 12% of Patient’s Euthanasia Bids, 44% Killed

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 9, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dutch Doctors Refuse 12% of Patient’s Euthanasia Bids, 44% Killed Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 9, 2005

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — A new study in the August issue of Archives of Internal Medicine claims Dutch doctors are properly handling euthanasia and assisted suicide requests that come their way. The study finds 44 percent of people who seek assisted suicide are killed, 13 percent change their minds and doctors refuse in only 12 percent of the cases.

Marijke C. Jansen-van der Weide, of VU University Medical Center, surveyed general practice doctors in Holland hailing from 18 of the 22 general practice districts. Physicians answered a written questionnaire asking about the number of assisted suicide requests in the last 12 months and how they handled those requests.

A total of 3,614 general practitioners responded to the questionnaire, about 60 percent of those asked to take part.

The doctors said they granted 44 percent of 2,658 assisted suicide requests and helped the patients kill themselves.

In 13 percent of the cases the patient died before the doctor ended their life. Another 13 percent died before the process of asking for the assisted suicide was finalized, the patient withdrew the request in 13 percent of the cases and the doctor refused the assisted suicide request just 12 percent of the time.

The most frequent reasons for requesting assisted suicide were "pointless suffering," "loss of dignity" and "weakness," doctors told surveyors.

Claiming doctors were following proper guidelines, the survey said physicians reported patients who were killed met the established criteria for allowing assisted suicides. Those patients refused their requests did not meet the criteria.

Refusal of requests were associated with a lesser degree of competence, and less unbearable and hopeless suffering.

"The decisions physicians make, the reasons they have for their decisions, and the way they arrive at their decisions seem to be based on patient evaluations," the authors of the survey wrote. "Physicians report compliance with the official requirements for accepted practice."

Susan M. Wolf, J.D., of the University of Minnesota Law School, has studied euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands and doesn’t think it would work in the United States.

"The Dutch have struggled mightily for more than two decades to devise a system to oversee physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia and keep both practices within agreed bounds. It is not clear that they have succeeded," Wolf says.

"Yet even if they were to succeed, that system might not work in the United States," Wolf explained. "The Dutch have universal health care coverage, long-standing relationships between physician and patient, and a far more homogenous society."