July 17, 2014

“We Were Wrong, Terribly Wrong”

Professor Theodore Boer, a Dutch professor of ethics, argued that a good euthanasia law would produce a relatively low number of deaths.  But that was seven years ago.

 Dutch Prof Theo Boer Theo Boer, Dutch Professor of Ethics

Last week he testified in Great Britain where debate on an assisted dying bill  is going on in the House of Peers.  The bill would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.  "I used to be a supporter of the Dutch law. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a very different view."  (full text of his remarks here)

Professor Boer testified "We were wrong - terribly wrong,….  ‘Don’t do it Britain. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’
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‘Whereas in the first years after 2002 hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise.

‘Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved.

‘Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ – or in some cases relatives’ – wishes can be intense.
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Euthanasia is on the way to become a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients.

The latest euthanasia figures for the Netherlands show that nearly one in seven deaths are at the hands of doctors.

In 2012, there were 4,188 deaths by direct euthanasia – 3 per cent of all deaths – and 3,695 deaths by direct euthanasia in 2011. The figures do not include deaths by terminal sedation, where patients are rendered unconscious before they are dehydrated and starved to death, an act often referred to as ‘euthanasia by omission’.  This practice accounts for more than 12 per cent of all deaths in the country.
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Elspeth Chowdharay-Best, honorary secretary of Alert, the anti-euthanasia pressure group, said legalizing assisted suicide would be like ‘stepping off a precipice’. ‘It means that you would lose the right to live,’ she said. ‘It is more serious than people realize.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 17, 2014 1:14 PM | Permalink