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Public prosecutor investigates euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands

by | Mar 14, 2018

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The DutchNL news reported that the regional euthanasia review committee’s annual report indicates that in 2017 the number of assisted deaths increased by another 8% to 6,585.

According to the article, the number of assisted deaths for dementia or psychiatric reasons also increased in 2017. One hundred sixty nine people died by euthanasia for dementia and 83 people died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

The DutchNL article further reported that a dozen of the euthanasia deaths were questionable:

Twelve cases were labeled by the monitoring committee as not being carefully carried out – these were mainly problems with medical care or not having an independent second opinion.

Under the headline, “Dutch prosecutors to investigate euthanasia cases after sharp rise: Doctor-assisted deaths of four women in the Netherlands found to warrant criminal inquiries,” The Guardian reported

The four cases being investigated have been referred to the prosecutor’s office by regional euthanasia committees, which monitor the system and alleged they had found problems. The cases were then found to warrant criminal investigation.

Two deaths being examined by the prosecutor in Noord-Holland province involve a doctor employed by Levenseindekliniek, an end of life clinic.

It is claimed that a 67-year-old woman, who lacked the capacity to express her own will because of Alzheimer’s, was euthanised in May last year despite the physician being unable to ascertain whether the request for death was voluntary and deliberate.

In a second case, an 84-year-old woman was euthanised last June after claiming her life was “hopeless” because of several physical illnesses. It has been suggested that this was not sufficiently proven to be case.

The public prosecutor in Oost-Nederland is also investigating the euthanasia of a 72-year-old woman last April who had metastasized cancer but lapsed into a coma, leaving the physician unable to ascertain that the decision for euthanasia was voluntary and well-considered, the review committee said.

In the fourth case, which is being investigated in The Hague, a euthanasia request from an 84-year-old woman was granted in February last year after the patient complained that her freedom of movement had been “very much restricted” by pulmonary emphysema. It has been claimed the physician concluded too easily that the suffering of the patient was hopeless.

The August 3, 2017 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a letter about a study titled “End-of-Life Decisions in the Netherlands over 25 years.” The authors found that in 2015 there were 7,254 assisted deaths (6,672 euthanasia deaths, 150 assisted suicide deaths, and 431 terminations of life without request in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands euthanasia law uses a voluntary self-reporting system, meaning the doctor who lethally injects the patient also submits the report. Since doctors do not self-report abuse of the law, the law enables doctors to cover-up “abuse” of the law. Thus terminations of life without request are usually not reported.

In January 2017, a Netherlands euthanasia review committee decided that the death of a woman with dementia, who died by euthanasia against her will, was done in “good faith.” The woman was held down while the doctor lethally injected her.

On January 1, 2018, Berna van Baarsen, a euthanasia assessor for 10 years, resigned over the acceptance of euthanasia for dementia in the Netherlands.

On January 26, 2018 a 29-year-old woman died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Euthanasia