Doctor and Anti-Euthanasia Advocate Discuss Dutch Assisted Suicides

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 12, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctor and Anti-Euthanasia Advocate Discuss Dutch Assisted Suicides Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 12, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A leading doctor and advocate against euthanasia discuss a recent study conducted in the Netherlands about the state of assisted suicide there. They said the survey doesn’t give a full picture about what’s happening in the European nation.

Conducted by researchers at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, 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.

Dr. David Stevens, M.D., executive director of the Christian Medical Association, says that although it appears Dutch doctors are abiding by assisted suicide requirements, he says there is no way of verifying if protocols are being met.

Stevens said his group looked into the situation there on its own and said Christian health groups sent a representative to the Netherlands to talk with the families of those affected by assisted suicide.

The representative told Stevens that many families were split on or against the patient’s decision to ask a doctor to help them kill themselves.

Stevens told Agape Press that, in one case, "The mother wanted it, or the mother was ambivalent. A sister wanted it; the son did not, and it caused enormous family conflict."

"Another family member talked about how his father was in a nursing home," Stevens explained "and [the medical care providers] actually started increasing his doses of morphine till it got to a lethal level, and killed him without his permission. And when confronted with it, they said, ‘We needed the bed.’"

Stevens says euthanasia has become so rampant in the Netherlands that it’s no longer about assisted suicide and supposedly helping patients. He said reports show doctors and hospitals are simply terminating patients who they deem beyond hope.

Meanwhile, Rita Marker, executive director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, says she’s not sure the nation’s physicians told Dutch researchers the truth about how assisted suicides were proceeding.

“All that we can say for sure is that this study shows doctors who responded to the questionnaires said everything is working fine, said that the guidelines are being followed, said that there are no abuses but we only have their word for it," she told Family News in Focus.

Doctors in the Netherlands helps many patients die for nonmedical reasons, such as the patient feeling he was a "burden" to his family.

“In the Netherlands there has never been a requirement of concreteness," she explained. "It was just a nebulous unbearable suffering criteria."

In the survey, 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.