Holland Sees Euthanasia Cases Rise 13 Percent, Thousands of People Killed

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 21, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Holland Sees Euthanasia Cases Rise 13 Percent, Thousands of People Killed

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 21
, 2010

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — The number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands has increased and, last year, 2,636 Dutch people were killed by doctors. Some 80 percent of the cases involved physicians administering lethal drugs and patients returning home to die.

An estimate of 2,500 deaths was first published in January and pro-life advocates said they were likely too low.

The number of euthanasia cases in Holland rose 10 percent from 2007-2008 and numbered 2,331 at that time.

That was an increase on the 1,815 reported cases in 2003, the year after the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize the practice.

Critics say the rising numbers are underreported and that more people have their lives taken by their physicians – in some cases when they can’t legally consent to killing themselves.

Jan Suyver, chairman of the government’s euthanasia monitoring commission, told the London Telegraph that the increase in numbers likely came because the "taboo" was removed on euthanasia over the years since its legalization.

But Phyllis Bowman, the executive officer of Right to Life, responded: "I am sure that the increase in numbers of people opting for euthanasia is largely a result of inadequate pain control."

Pain control has been an alternative pro-life groups have promoted for years — as a way of helping patients deal with what prompts may to consider assisted suicide.

The high numbers are prompting Els Borst, the former Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who sponsored the euthanasia law in the Dutch parliament, to call for an investigation.

Alex Schadenberg of the Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, discussed the new numbers when the first estimate came out earlier this year.

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.

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 back in January.

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

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.


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