The ultimate Christmas present

Merry Christmas! From the Netherlands, the country that brought you
Santa Claus, comes the ultimate Christmas present, involuntary
euthanasia for kids! Groningen Academic Hospital has asked the Dutch
government to approve protocols for killing deformed and terminally ill
children -- after admitting that it had already done this four times in
the past year.

The leading figure in the push for "mercy killing" for
children, Dr Eduard Verhagen, said that the number affected by the
measure would be no more than about a dozen each year. The newborns he
has in mind suffer "agonising pain", he said. "The parents watch this
in tears and beg the doctor to bring an end to such suffering."(1) His
press release failed to mention that the "Groningen protocols" would
allow doctors to kill children up to the age of 12, not just infants.

Together with Dutch public prosecutors, Dr Verhagen and his
colleagues have drawn up a list of five criteria: "the suffering must
be so severe that the newborn has no prospects of a future; there is no
possibility of a cure or alleviation with medication or surgery; the
parents must always give their consent; a second opinion must be
provided by an independent doctor who has not been involved with the
child's treatment; and the deliberate ending of life must be
meticulously carried out with the emphasis on aftercare."

Dutch doctors want to expand the boundaries of euthanasia to include adults who are sick and tired of living and not just sick.

Santa Claus came for Dutch grown-ups, too. In a separate
development, the Dutch medical profession announced that it wants to
expand the boundaries of euthanasia to include adults who are sick and
tired of living and not just sick. Earlier this month, shortly after
the Netherlands Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Dr Philip
Sutorius for euthanasia in 1998, the Dutch doctors' association, the
KNMG, demanded that the goalposts be shifted. Dr Sutorius had killed an
86-year-old former senator, Edward Brongersma, who had no one to care
for him and was tired of living. Perhaps he had reason to be:
Brongersma was an outspoken advocate of paedophilia and author of a
two-volume study called Loving Boys. After spending time in
jail for child sex, he became chairman of the Judiciary Committee of
the Dutch Senate from 1969 to 1977 and helped to push through repeal of
the laws under which he had been convicted.

The KNMG has now released a lengthy report (in Dutch) in
support of voluntary euthanasia for existential rather than for medical
reasons.(2) The chairman of the committee, Dr Jos Dijkhuis, argues that
"suffering is too often linked to illness" and that a person who simply
cannot bear to live any longer and whose outlook on the future is
hopeless is "suffering from life".

None of this comes as a surprise. Dutch doctors have been
killing their patients upon request for years with the connivance of
the government, even before the practice was legalised in 2002.
Immediately thereafter came reports that many doctors were killing
patients outside of the agreed guidelines because there was too much
red tape. Broadening the ambit of euthanasia to include children under
12 who cannot give informed consent and people whom no medicine can
cure because they are not sick is a natural development. Dementia is
already deemed a valid reason for euthanasia.(3) As well, it is already
an option for 12-year-olds who have their parents' consent.

These Christmas goodies confirm that the Dutch medical
profession -- with many honourable exceptions -- is suffering from
terminal case of navel-gazing.

Doesn't it ask how other countries view Holland's accelerating ride down the slippery slope?

Consider, for instance, what the United States will think.
Effectively the Dutch have legalised the death penalty for people whose
crime is simply to be young and sick or old and depressed. And this
comes from a country which has been wagging its finger at the United
States about the immorality of enforcing the death penalty for the
mentally ill!

Under the presidency of the Netherlands, the European
Commission chided the US for refusing to sign an international
agreement banning the execution of people with mental disorders. "The
EU restates its firm conviction," it said, "that the execution of
persons suffering from mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted
human rights norms and standard... In cases where the death penalty is
carried out, any miscarriage of justice, which is occasionally
inevitable in any legal system, would be irreversible."(4) Euthanasia
is also irreversible, but it happens every day in Dutch nursing homes.
In 2003 there were 1,815 reported cases of euthanasia, a figure which
everyone agrees is greatly understated. In the United States, for all
its faults, at least we know how many people are executed every year.
In the Netherlands, reliable statistics are unavailable for matters as
basic as numbers those killed and their ages.

Consider, too, what Dutch Muslims will think -- especially
after the brutal murder of a Dutch film-maker for insulting Islam.
"Euthanasia violates the purpose of preserving religion, hifdh ad-din,
because it involves a human attempt to violate the divine prerogative
of giving and taking away life," according to the "fatwa bank" of
IslamOnline.(5) If many Christians are incensed by the legalisation of
euthanasia, what will unbalanced Muslim extremists think? Will it
increase their esteem for Dutch culture to know that the test case for
the introduction of euthanasia without illness centred on a
world-renowned paedophile? Will they admire a relaxed, tolerant,
freedom-loving culture which allows involuntary euthanasia of children
under 12?

Why the Netherlands has become the epicentre of world
euthanasia baffles scholars. But surely one reason is the arrogant
assumption that, unless proven otherwise, doctors are rational,
well-balanced and compassionate -- ideally suited to decide whether
their patients should live or die.

However, doctors may actually be less healthy psychologically
than the rest of the population, not more. An Australian review of
doctors' emotional health based on international research found that
depression, burn-out and psychiatric illness are very common amongst
doctors, but few seek professional assistance.(6) They are twice as
likely to commit suicide. Female doctors are six times more likely. One
study has suggested that doctors were more afraid of death than
seriously ill patients. Psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate of
all specialties. Giving stressed, depressed and burnt-out doctors the
authority to kill their patients, turning a blind eye as they kill
without permission, and changing the law when they flout it will
eventually lead to abuses on a colossal scale.

It has become clear that the Dutch government and medical
profession have no intention of stopping their country's slide into
abuses of the most fundamental of all human rights. It is hypocritical
for the Netherlands to demand that countries like Turkey scrub up their
record on human rights before applying for membership in the European
Union. What the international community must do is apply pressure on
the Netherlands to halt its slide down the slippery slope.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.


(1) "Paediatricians call for nationwide protocol for the ending of life of unbearably and incureably suffering newborns", Groningen University Hospital press release, Dec 10, 2004

(2) "Lijden aan het leven" ("Suffering from life"). Dec 2004

(3)"Euthanasia allowed in some dementia cases". Expatica. Jun 3, 2004.

(4)"EU Statement on Death Penalty in the US". July 29, 2005.

(5) "Islam's Stance on Euthanasia". Nov 29, 2004.

(6) "The Conspiracy of Silence". Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. July 2004


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