by Alex Schadenberg
May 16, 2007
LifeNews.com Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
A recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (May 10, 2007) has been reported by the media as stating that the practice of Euthanasia in the Netherlands has dropped since it was formally legalized in 2002.
When reading the actual report we learn of a different reality than the media has reported.
The report states that in 2001, the year before euthanasia was formally legalized in the Netherlands, there were approximately 3500 (2.6%) euthanasia deaths, there were approximately 300 (0.2%) assisted suicide deaths and approximately 8500 (5.6%) deaths by terminal sedation (sedation followed by dehydration).
The report states that in 2005 there were approximately 2325 (1.7%) euthanasia deaths, there were approximately 100 (0.1%) assisted suicide deaths and approximately 9685 (7.1%) deaths by terminal sedation. It seems that the decreased incidence of active euthanasia was replaced by the incredible increase in deaths by terminal sedation in the Netherlands.
The other fact in the new study is that approximately 550 (0.4%) of deaths resulted from the ending of life without explicit request. These numbers are not part of the euthanasia numbers because they lack the requirement of voluntary request and therefore they are placed in a separate category. This number appears to have remained steady since 2001.
The practice of terminal sedation needs to be separated from decisions to sedate patients without the explicit intention of causing death. In 2005 there were another 1.1% of deaths whereby the patient was sedated without the explicit intention of causing death.
Terminal sedation often represents slow euthanasia, instead of normal end-of-life care. When someone who is not otherwise dying, but unlikely to recover, the decision to sedate and intentionally dehydrate the person to death results in death by dehydration.
Since the intentional cause of death is dehydration and not an underlying medical condition, therefore these deaths fulfill the traditional definition of euthanasia which is the intentional causing of death, by action or omission, for reasons of mercy.
Since the Netherlands defines euthanasia as only the voluntary active cause of death, therefore cases of terminal sedation are not considered to be part of the total euthanasia practice.
The actual number of intentionally caused deaths may, in fact, be higher. The report states that 80.2% of all euthanasia deaths in 2005 were reported, which is up from 54.1% in 2001. Nonetheless, the report admits that most of the under-reporting is related to deaths that resulted from the use of opioids to intentional overdose.
The media continues to lack honesty in their reporting of the actual number of intentionally caused deaths in the Netherlands and euthanasia continues to be out-of-control.
Therefore in 2005 there were approximately 12,660 (9.3%) intentionally caused deaths in relation to all deaths in the Netherlands. This does not represent a decrease in intentionally caused deaths but rather a continuation of a sad history of intentionally causing the death of people who are at their most vulnerable time of their life.