Rushing toward death - Euthanasia in the Netherlands

Theo Boer

Theo Boer

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In July 2014, Professor Theo Boer, who was member, for nine years, of a euthanasia regional review committee in the Netherlands, wrote an article that was published in the Daily Mail urging the British parliament to reject the legalization of assisted suicide. Boer then gave the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition permission to publish the full text of his article entitled "Assisted Suicide: Don't go there."

Today Professor Boer published a significant critique of the Netherlands Euthanasia Law under the title: Rushing toward death?

Boer begins by explaining how euthanasia became legal, and how the law works in the Netherlands. He wrote:

In 1994 the Netherlands became the first country to legalize assisted dying. The Dutch added a clause to the Burial and Cremation Act allowing doctors to help a person die as long as the patient made an informed request and faced unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement; a second doctor concurred in the decision; and medically advised methods were used. The clause was further codified by the Assisted Dying Act in 2001. Belgium followed suit with similar legislation in 2002. 
In the Netherlands, five regional review committees, each consisting of a lawyer, a physician, and an ethicist, were charged with keeping an eye on the practice and assessing (after the fact) whether a case of assisted dying complied with the law. 
Two forms of assisted dying are legally practiced: euthanasia, in which the action of the physician causes death, and physician-assisted suicide, in which a physician provides the patient with a lethal drink administered by the patient. The overwhelming majority of patients who make use of the law (95 percent) choose euthanasia.

Boer then explains why he originally supported the Netherlands euthanasia law.

Link to the full article

Canada's euthanasia lobby pushes euthanasia for people who cannot consent

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A recent poll commissioned by the euthanasia lobby was designed to pressure Canada's parliament to approve euthanasia for incompetent people with advanced dementia.

The Supreme Court February 2015 Carter decision permitted euthanasia for:

“a competent adult person who
(1) clearly consents to the termination of life and
(2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

The Supreme Court decision stated that the person must clearly consent, but the euthanasia lobby is not satisfied with limiting euthanasia to consenting adults so they designed a poll to suggest that 80 per cent of Canadians agree that individuals with a terminal medical condition like dementia should be permitted to consent to assisted death in advance. 

According to a recent study from Belgium, where assisted death was legalized for competent adults in 2002, there were more than 1000 assisted deaths without explicit request in 2013.

The euthanasia lobby wants you to believe that they only support euthanasia for people who are competent, terminally ill and suffering, but in reality they also want euthanasia without an explicit consent for incompetent people. 

If this is about "freedom of choice," as the euthanasia lobby claims, how can it be assured that the person with dementia is freely choosing to be killed? 

The euthanasia lobby is not satisfied with the Supreme Court decision to limit killing to people who clearly consent, they also want death for people who they define as better off dead and who cannot consent.

Belgium 2015 euthanasia report: Deaths continue to rise

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The 2015 Belgian euthanasia data indicates that the number of euthanasia deaths continue to increase. According to the Belgian media, in 2015, there were 2021 reported deaths by euthanasia, up from 1924 reported euthanasia deaths in 2014.

But Wim Distelmans, the chairman of the euthanasia commission reminded the media that they cannot say for certain the actual number of euthanasia deaths. Distelmans stated:

"Remember, there could be some euthanasia cases carried out but which are not declared so we cannot say for certain what the number is,"

Distelmans remarks are confirmed by research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on March 19 2015 concerning the euthanasia practice in Belgium which indicated that: 

  • 4.6% of all deaths in 2013 in the Flanders region were euthanasia. 
  • .05% of all deaths in 2013 in the Flanders region were assisted suicide.
  • 1.7% of all deaths in 2013 in the Flanders region were hastened without explicit request.

First: The data uncovered significant under-reporting of euthanasia in the Flanders region of Belgium. The official 2013 euthanasia data found that 2.4% of the deaths in the Flanders region were euthanasia, while the study examining all deaths found that 4.6% of the deaths in the Flanders region were euthanasia. Therefore nearly half of the euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were not reported.

In January 2014, Dr Marc Cosyns, was quoted by De Standard news saying that he never reports his euthanasia deaths, even though it is a requirement of the Belgian euthanasia law.

Link to the full article

Empirical evidence indicates that euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are abused

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A recent article by Stuart Chambers that was published on January 5 in the Ottawa Citizen claims that: 

It was a bitter pill to swallow for secular prohibitionists when large-scale abuses against vulnerable populations failed to materialize in those jurisdictions.

Chambers argues that there is only anecdotal abuse of euthanasia and assisted suicide and only religious arguments oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide ignoring the disability rights movement and the position of Not Dead Yet.

Chambers ignores the data from study that was published in the NEJM on March 19, 2015 on the experience with euthanasia in the Flanders region of Belgium. 

The study examined 3751 deaths in the first six months of 2013 in the Flanders region of Belgium and concluded that 1.7% of all deaths were hastened without request representing more than 1000 deaths yearly. The study also determined that euthanasia represents 4.6% of all deaths but the official Belgian reports indicate that euthanasia represents 2.4% of all deaths, meaning that almost half of all assisted deaths went unreported, a clear abuse of the Belgian law.

Chambers also ignored the data concerning the Washington State assisted suicide law.

The 2014 Washington State assisted suicide report states that 176 lethal prescriptions were received, 126 people died by assisted suicide, 17 deaths were from other causes, 6 people remained alive and 27 deaths were from unknown causes. The report states that the ingestion status of the 27 deaths from unknown causes is unknown and the lethal prescription is unaccounted. What kind of oversight is that?

For the purpose of brevity, this article only examines a few key points. It should be a bitter pill to swallow for Chambers that my response did not require anecdotal evidence.

The Netherlands approves euthanasia for severe dementia

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Netherlands government has decided to extend euthanasia to people with dementia who are incompetent to request death by lethal injection, if the person requested euthanasia while still competent. 

The 2014 Netherlands euthanasia statistics state that out of 5306 euthanasia deaths; 81 people were lethally injected for dementia and 41 people died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

To lethally inject a person who is unable to request death undermines the "safeguard" of consent. Even if the person, while competent, requested euthanasia for dementia, now the person is unable to change their mind.

Since the person is incompetent to request death by lethal injection, the new "guide" undermines the safeguard requiring a clear request. Who will decide when the lethal injection should be done? Will it be determined that some lives are not worth living? 

The new guide appears to be designed to protect doctors who were already killing people with dementia.

Link to the full article

Euthanasia: Theory and reality

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law, opening the door to assisted death (Carter v. Canada).

This is an incredibly complex topic, one fraught with moral and ethical issues.

Canadians have been sold the theory that euthanasia can freely end one’s life at the time and place of their choosing. This theory assumes that euthanasia will be voluntary and that the decision and the act is controlled by the person who dies by euthanasia.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) contends that the theory of legal euthanasia and its practice are very different. Since euthanasia, by definition, means that the physician will cause the death of the patient, therefore misuse of the law resulting in a person’s death would normally be understood to be homicide.

Euthanasia in practice

A study published in March 2015 concerning end-of-life practices in 2013 in Belgium found that 4.6 per cent of all deaths were euthanasia. The same study also found that 1.7 per cent of all deaths were hastened without explicit request. This means that approximately 1000 people were intentionally killed without request in 2013. The data indicates deaths that were hastened without request were more likely to occur when a patient was in a hospital and incompetent to make medical decisions.

How did this occur?

The guidelines in Belgium and the Netherlands require the physician who causes death by euthanasia to report the euthanasia after the patient has died. Since the doctor who approves the death is the same doctor who submits the report, and since there is no third-party oversight of the law, therefore the system has been designed to “cover up” misuse of the law.

The same misuse of the law will likely occur in Canada. The proposed Quebec euthanasia guidelines also require the physician who lethally injects the patient to submit the report to the government. The Quebec system also provides no third-party oversight of the law, while enabling physicians to cover up misuse of the law when directly killing a patient.

Link to the full article

Belgian doctors are killing patients by euthanasia without request

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Journal of Medical Ethics recently published a research article that is written by Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a human rights activist and Chair of the Politics department at the University of Hull

The article: First do no harm intentional shortening lives of patients without their explicit request in Belgium focuses on published data concerning the practise of causing death without patient request in Belgium and it also focuses on the policy of the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine Council concerning the administration of sedative agents with the direct intention of shortening life.

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Cohen-Almagor examines the Belgian research from the years 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2013. Whereas a basic examination of the research would suggest that the percentage of hastened deaths without explicit request has lowered, the reality indicates that the practise remains common resulting in over 1000 hastened deaths without request each year.

For instance, in 1998, 4 years before euthanasia was legalised in Belgium, research indicates that 3.2% of all deaths were hastened without request while a similar studies in 2007 found that 1.8% of all deaths and in 2013 - 1.7% of all deaths were hastened without explicit.

In December 2012 I published my book - Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, that examined much of this data, even though Cohen-Almagor also examines newer data.

Link to the full article