Dutch euthanasia industry now killing the mentally ill

A decade ago, a bunch of Dutch medical lawyers came up with a series of guidelines designed to keep doctors out of jail for assisting in suicides. Called the Groningen Protocols, the guidelines set up procedures that were ostensibly designed to protect the patient from being put down unnecessarily.

The guidelines say that a patient has to apply at one of the assisted suicide centers, have the concurrence of their family doctor, and have their case adjudicated by a panel of doctors. For children under 12, it is the parents who make the decision.

Today, the protocols have expanded to include flying squads of death dealing doctors who travel all over the country helping people end their lives - including the mentally ill. This is problematic because the idea that someone suffering from dementia, or Alzheimer's disease can make a rational choice to die is questionable.

The controversial practice is getting very popular.

Daily Mail:

Currently, 4 per cent of the 140,000 or so deaths a year in Holland are the result of doctor-assisted suicide and the tally is rising.

In particular, increasing numbers of Dutch people with mental illness demand euthanasia. In 2010, two people with such conditions had their lives ended with the figure increasing to 56 last year.

Of those deaths, 36 were conducted by doctors from Amsterdam's End Of Life clinic which has a lengthy waiting list and sends mobile euthanasia teams across Holland to help patients die in their own homes.

The clinic is run by Steven Pleiter, the former European director of an American IT company, who told me in Amsterdam this week: 'One of the reasons the clinic was set up was to help the 'forgotten ones' who wish for euthanasia but get denied it.

'This is a huge group: those with dementia, the elderly with no clear medical diagnosis and those with psychological problems.'

Soft-spoken and with the air of a doctor (despite his non-medical background), Pleiter says his clinic had 1,234 applications for help last year, a third of them from people with psychiatric problems.

Significantly, many of the mentally-ill patients had already been rejected for euthanasia by their own GPs. He explained: 'If someone has cancer and the prognosis is poor, doctors will shorten their suffering by euthanasia.

'But if you cannot see what a patient is dying of, or know when they will die — it could be many years ahead if the person is mentally ill — then the doctors find it more difficult to decide whether to end a life.'

So Pleiter's team offers to fill this gap. He got into the right-to-die business when his mother suffered a stroke at 80 and was left paralysed down one half of her body. She had always told him that if such an eventuality happened, she wanted to be helped to die.

Her son could do nothing to fulfil that wish, and she struggled on for another four difficult years before getting pneumonia and passing away.

This slippery slope is real. The incrementalism in allowing more and more people to choose death, even if they are neither competent or rational, shows that the pro-euthanasia lobby won't stop. There is no limit to who should be able to choose state-sponsored death. The probability that decisions will be forced upon the mentally ill by relatives or doctors is growing. Suppose the family of a patient suffering from Alzheimer's is tired of grandma draining their inheritance on private nurses and expensive drugs? It's not such a big step to allow the family to off the old lady. As someone who watched their mother die of Alzheimer's - a woman who was loved and cared for until the day she died - I can sympathize with the urge to interpret the wishes of a patient with the disease. But that is not our right and it should never be our right.  

We all know that doctors, on a case by case basis, make these decisions. And if it's based on instructions in a living will - a DNR order, for example - this is the right of the patient in consultation with their doctor. But this is a far cry from allowing the mentally ill to decide to die with the help of a state regulated panel.

The potential for abuse in this system is so great it should never have been approved. As far as the US is concerned, all efforts to allow something similiar here should be fought and defeated.




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