Euthanasia in the Netherlands has steadily been on the rise in recent years, with last year’s significant increase being indicative of the 50-percent surge over the past five years, according to the nation’s recently released statistics for 2015 that show more than 5,500 were killed by so-called “mercy killings” last year alone.
The targeting of specific Dutch people groups has reportedly contributed to the spike in euthanized deaths.
“The rise is mainly due to the increase of euthanasia for demented, elderly people, as well as psychiatric patients — two categories that raise even more questions than ‘ordinary’ euthanasia for untreatable physical pain,” LifeSiteNews reports.
As these categories are more readily “approved” for the controversial “assisted suicide” procedure, the number of deaths continues to jump from year to year.
“In 2015, 109 demented persons — [compared to] 81 in 2014 — were killed while still ‘mentally competent’ enough to express their own will,” the pro-life news agency informed before providing the following stats on those whose deaths were handled primarily by the nation’s End of Life Clinic. “Fifty-six patients with psychiatric disorders were put to death at their own request in 2015 — a sharp rise from the 41 such cases recorded in 2014.”
Low standards for accuracy?
As a northern European nation with a relatively low population of less than 17 million, the numbers of those being “legally” put to death is staggering, and the system by which they are designated to receive lethal injections already appears to be quite sloppy.
“Out of a total of 5,561 reported euthanasia acts — compared with the 3,695 reported five years earlier — four were deemed not to be in compliance with the Dutch euthanasia law,” LifeSiteNews Paris Correspondent Jeanne Smits informed. “Two of them were handled by the End of Life Clinic — but no legal action will be taken, reports the protestant conservative daily, the Trouw.”
Because the controversial process is becoming more accepted and prevalent, the accountability of Dutch medical professionals to abide by the legal guidelines to which they are bound is not very stringent.
“In both cases, doctors appointed by the End of Life Clinic were faulted by the regional euthanasia supervisory commission for not having acted in compliance with the full criteria of the law,” Smits continued. “This would normally open the way for a penal process to be opened against the offender, [but] by deciding not to act, the competent authorities appear to be retroactively justifying certain forms of illegal euthanasia … this is exactly how the ‘slippery slope’ concept works.”
Justifying a crime?
Many unfamiliar with Dutch law are surprised to discover that euthanasia is actually a “penal offense.”
“In the Netherlands, euthanasia, the deliberate killing of a human being — supposedly at his or her request — is in principle a penal offense,” Smits emphasizes. “Compliance with a ‘strict’ list of criteria, which include ‘unbearable suffering,’ the lack of alternative therapy, and ‘no possibility’ that the patient’s situation will improve, allows doctors to escape both trial and punishment — [b]ut they are expected to report all acts, with a wealth of details, for them to be vetted by one of the five regional euthanasia supervisory commissions.”
Whether the lethal procedure is ruled legal or not is measured by the state’s medical and legal professionals.
“Once the commission has studied the case, it either passes it as compliant with the law or transmits it to the Health Inspection Service and to the public prosecutor,” the pro-life advocate explains. “These can then decide whether or not to open a judiciary procedure.”
However, close scrutiny of questionable cases is by no means the rule oftoday.
“Over the years, the regional commissions have accepted more and more dubious cases as legal, so when they decide not to ‘pass’ an act of euthanasia as compliant, further investigation by a court would appear to be essential,” Smits points out. “’Not so,’ decided the Health Inspection and the public prosecutor in two cases that did not make the grade in 2015.”
Established in 2012 to “assist” regular physicians who will not carry out their patients’ requests to for assisted suicide — when euthanasia is not the patient’s right and doctors always have the last word — the End of Life Clinic was designed to increase “mercy killings.”
“Conscientious reasons or a decision about the depth of suffering of the person who is demanding to be killed can lead a doctor to refuse or to put off a euthanasia act,” Smits added. “The End of Life Clinic is there to ‘help,’ with a team of counselors who can intervene to make the doctor change his or her mind, and also specialized ‘flying death squads’ who are prepared to procure euthanasia in the comfort of the patient’s home.”
Fatal flaws in the system
Doctors from the End of Life Clinic were specifically called out to handle a couple of cases where psychiatric suffering and advanced dementia were claimed to be taking their toll on patients.
“An old woman who had suffered from repeated episodes of depression over several decades was killed in 2015 without the End of Life Clinic having consulted an independent psychiatrist — contrary to the guidelines of both the Netherlands Association for Psychiatry and the medical association KNMG,” the correspondent recounted. “Talks with the depressed old lady were conducted by an ‘in-house’ geriatrician only, even though the End of Life Clinic’s own affirmed objective is to help people obtain euthanasia.”
However, the controversial clinic offered excuses as to why it had not complied with standard protocol and the law.
“The End of Life Clinic argued that the patient had had ‘bad experiences’ with psychiatrists, which is why it decided to bypass the obligation that exists because of the difficulty to determine whether a psychiatric patient’s death wish is ‘sincere and lasting,’” Smits explained. “The competent regional commission did not accept the excuse, pointing out that geriatricians are simply not competent to judge euthanasia requests in these situations.”
But when all was said and done, the medical and legal authorities together decided to look the other way take the clinics word for everything.
“Both Health Inspection and the public prosecutor decided to accept the consultation because the persons involved in the decision were ‘convinced’ that the old lady really wanted to die,” the European pro-life reporter informed. “Besides, the End of Clinic promised to handle cases differently in the future … That was deemed sufficient.”
Other critical problems were witnessed in the End of Life Clinic’s other case.
“In the second case, a similar promise made by a doctor who had killed a very old demented lady on the faith of a 20-year-old ‘living will’ also ensured that he went scot-free,” Smits said. “In his report to the euthanasia commission, he pointed out that he did not personally think that his patient was suffering ‘intolerably’ — a statement that he later qualified when questioned by Health Inspection saying his first declaration had been ‘incomplete.’”
That was not the only flaw in the problematic clinic’s handling of the situation.
“The decades-old ‘living will’ made clear that the patient, who was then mentally competent and perhaps not even ill, preferred to die rather than to be placed in a specialized institution,” the French pro-lifer added. “The ‘living will’ was never updated and therefore a doubt subsisted, 20 years on, whether she really wanted to be put to death — with no way of knowing her actual will.”
Again, Health Inspection and the public prosecutor teamed up by refusing to carry out the decision of the euthanasia commission, which ruled that this particular euthanasia was not to be considered as compliant with Dutch law. But this didn’t seem to matter much to Dutch officials.
“Even so, new guidelines were published in January of this year by the KNMG, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health in the Netherlands, saying — quite vaguely — that ‘living wills’ should not be ‘too dated,’” Smits pointed out. “The fact that the Justice Ministry’s own services have decided not to prosecute in the aforementioned case shows the guidelines are being considered as mere indications.”
As time goes by, more and more Dutch are being euthanized under questionable circumstances — as the requirements needed to proceed with the fatal procedure continue to be loosely enforced.
“Last year, a similar case was shelved by the public prosecutor when a patient suffering from Huntington’s disease and almost incapable of communicating was killed on the faith of a six-year-old euthanasia request,” Smits emphasized. “However lax Dutch euthanasia commissions have become, the judiciary in the Netherlands always appears to be prepared to go one step further.”