Monday, January 4, 2010

Gotta Love the Dutch, Those Merciful Killers!

Let’s open the New Year as we left the old year, shall we?

You know - that part about how we are now becoming quite accustomed to killing people because somebody has decided they are not worth keeping alive.

All in the decedents’ best interests, of course.

Media in the Netherlands reports that there was an increase in the number of people euthanized in 2009 – including people in the early stages of dementia. No surprise there, but I think it’s instructive to look at what is reported, and the subtle subtexts that are nevertheless coercive in slanting a favorable impression of medicalized killing.

Sidebar: I’m not suggesting that the reporter deliberately thought this through, but I think it’s obvious that things in the Netherlands are so pro-euthanasia that the article’s bias is assumed to be “balanced coverage,” which it’s not.

From a piece DutchNews entitled More Cases of Euthanasia in 2009.

First, the obvious is reported, that there were more 200 more cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands last year than 2008, where the killing total was 2,500.


It is not known how many cases of mercy killing there actually are in the Netherlands, but in 2007 experts said around 80% of instances are registered with the monitoring body.

Well, mercy for whom, exactly? What exactly is the nature of this “mercy?” How can we be assured that the “mercy’ is not for those left behind who found the patient too much of a burden? What about the survivors benefitting from such “mercy” as they inherit goodies from the person they coaxed to assume a duty to die? No way to tell, of course.

“Merciful” because people are in unbearable pain and suffering? Not exactly, because many people who are euthanized are not in pain, and because, in the Netherlands, you can request euthanasia for just about any reason at all, pain or no pain.

Also, after all the fanfare in the Netherlands about making euthanasia legal so that it could be officially controlled, what do we find? Well, it’s not controllable.

Remember, too, that the registering “monitoring body” (sounds so nice, certain, and transparent) is a review panel that examines the circumstances of the killing AFTER it has occurred.

Now, here's the next snippet that contradicts the whole pain-and-suffering angle:

There were also six registered cases of euthanasia on elderly patients with senile dementia, all of whom were in the early stages and able to make their wishes known.

Ah, I see. Where to begin? Dementia, though tragic and unfortunate, is not physically painful (originally, at the top of the slippery slope, euthanasia was ONLY for untreatable physical pain among the terminally ill). Psychologically painful? Clearly, for persons who are aware that their faculties are diminishing, but how do other people make this determination? (Those with dementia don’t euthanize themselves, after all). Where is the bright clear line between someone with early dementia who requests euthanasia (in their right mind, so to speak) and someone who’s condition is more far advanced and is judged not competent to request euthanasia?

Don’t worry, the Dutch doctors have a solution for this latter group – they kill them too. The explanation? Had these people been in their right mind, they would have requested euthanasia anyway.

On we go:

The law states a number of criteria, which must be met before euthanasia can be administered. For example, the patient must be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.

More shooting fish in barrels here: Where’s the “unbearable pain” in dementia? How can a doctor ever possibly be sure that, knowing a diagnosis of dementia has already been made, calibrate that the dementia is not affecting the request for euthanasia?

Short answer, I’m afraid: All the contortions of logic and single-mindedness betray, with increasing smugness, that in many places we have decided who should live and who should die.

First those who are terminally ill and in untreatable pain. Then people who are not terminally ill but who might have physical or psychological pain. Then people who are judged to never be able to have a better quality of life. First adults. Then children.

Who’s next?

No comments: