Euthanasia Cases Increase in the Netherlands for Third Consecutive Year

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Euthanasia Cases Increase in the Netherlands for Third Consecutive Year Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 2, 2006

Amsterdam, Netherlands ( — The number of assisted suicide cases in the Netherlands has increased for the third consecutive year, the Dutch government has reported. The Regional Oversight Boards for Euthanasia indicated there were 1,933 euthanasia deaths in 2005, up from 1,886 in 2004 and 1,815 in 2003.

However, the agency also said that only about half of all likely euthanasia deaths are reported to the federal government.

The nation’s law allows for mentally competent patients to say they want to end their lives. They must be terminally ill and two doctors must sign off on the decision before giving the patients the lethal drugs.

The Dutch agency that reported the new figures indicated doctors did not follow guidelines in three cases and those were referred to judicial authorities for prosecution.

Some pro-life residents of the country wear specialized bracelets telling doctors to provide them with lifesaving medical treatment if they are injured and unable to make their own medical decisions.

Holland has also moved forward with a plan to allow doctors to take the lives of disabled newborns they think are beyond medical hope.

Some doctors, like those at University Medical Centre in Groningen, a city in northern Holland, have already been euthanizing disabled babies under protocols the hospital put together. At least 20-25 babies per year have been put to death by doctors who don’t think they will survive anyway.

Eduard Verhagen, clinical director of pediatrics, came up with the euthanasia guidelines which are expected to be put in place nationwide allow doctors to kill newborns in cases involving “unbearable suffering" as long as their is parental consent and other doctors are consulted for their input on the baby’s prospects.

Bert Dorenbos, chairman of the Cry for Life organization, told the London Times the practice is "very scary."

“It is a terrible thing,” he said. Under the new guidelines “patients, particularly children, will need protection from euthanasia-minded doctors. It is very worrying indeed."

"It means that doctors will have a freer hand as to whether to end the life of a child or not. It is a slippery slope," he has said about the practice.

Last year, reports showed doctors in Holland had engaged in 22 cases of euthanizing babies with spina bifida, a disabling birth defect affecting the spinal column that has been repaired in surgeries. The doctors were never prosecuted for killing the infants.

Prosecutors said they would not charge the doctors as long as they followed official protocols set up by the Groningen hospital where they worked.

The nation was the first to legalize assisted suicide in 2001 and Belgium began allowing it in 2002. Switzerland also now allows passive euthanasia to those terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.

Oregon is the only state in the United States to have legalized assisted suicide.