Debate Magazine

1/3 of Dutch Physicians Are Willing to Kill the Mentally Ill

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

The Netherlands

Jane Collingwood reports for PsychCentral, April 15, 2015, that according to a survey by the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam, as many as a third of medical doctors in the Netherlands are prepared to euthanize (“physician-assisted suicide”) people who are not afflicted with a terminal illness, but are merely mentally ill.

The survey was undertaken in 2011-2012 by Dr. Eva Bolt and colleagues at the EMGO Institute. They sent questionnaires to 2,269 randomly selected general practitioners (family doctors) and specialists in elderly care, cardiology, respiratory medicine, intensive care, neurology, and internal medicine, who were asked if they had ever helped a patient who was suffering with cancer, another physical disease, a mental illness, dementia, or without a severe physical disease but was “tired of living” to die. 1,456 (or 64%) of the 2,269 completed the survey.

The study found that:

  • A large majority (86%) of those who had completed the survey indicated they would consider “helping” a patient to die.
  • 77% (and more than 90% of GPs or family doctors) had been asked at least once for help to die.
  • 6 out of 10 doctors had actually helped a patient to die:
    • 56% had helped a cancer patient to die.
    • 31% had helped euthanize patients with a non-cancer physical disease.
    • 7% had helped euthanize a patient who did not have cancer or another severe physical illness.
  • As many as 34% of medical doctors who took the survey said they would consider helping a mentally-ill patient to die.
  • That percentage increased to 40% for patients with early-stage dementia. Strangely, the percentage of doctors who would consider euthanizing patients with late-stage dementia was lower — at 33%.
  • As many as one in five (18%) doctors said they are prepared to euthanize someone who is not ill but is “tired of living.”

Full results of the survey are published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The current situation in The Netherlands is that euthanasia or assisted suicide is legally permissible “for those whose suffering is psychiatric/psychological in nature.” The Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act, effective April 1, 2002, legalizes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) under very specific circumstances. Several stringent conditions must be fulfilled including that “the patient’s suffering is unbearable with no prospect of improvement.”

A team of researchers at Netherlands’ Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre had explored the legal definition of “unbearable suffering,” but concluded that “Unbearable suffering is difficult to assess, so evaluation of the current knowledge of unbearable suffering is needed in the ongoing debate about the conditions on which EAS can be approved.” So the researchers proposed their own definition for “unbearable suffering” in the context of a request for a physician-assisted suicide to mean “a profoundly personal experience of an actual or perceived impending threat to the integrity or life of the person, which has a significant duration and a central place in the person’s mind.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Culture of Death by Wesley J. Smith

According to Wesley J. Smith, J.D., writing for Life News, as many as 42 mentally ill patients and nearly 100 early-stage dementia patients were euthanized in the Netherlands in the most recent year for which statistics are available. The killings were justified by the “assisting” psychiatrists as a “liberation” for the patient and the doctors.

Those numbers are the ones reported. How many were killed surreptitiously cannot be known.

~Éowyn


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