Dutch legalise mercy killing

Marta Russell ap888 at SPAMlafn.org
Sat Dec 2 09:42:15 MST 2000

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Marta Russell

Ulhas Joglekar wrote:
> Thursday
> 30 November 2000
> Dutch legalise mercy killing
> THE HAGUE: The Netherlands, where so-called mercy killings have been
> tolerated for decades, became the first country on Tuesday to vote to
> legalise euthanasia.
> The parliament's lower chamber voted 104 to 40 to approve a bill allowing
> doctors to help patients die under a strict set of rules.
> Upper chamber approval next year is seen as a formality.
> The bill's supporters, including many doctors, say it champions patients'
> rights and brings a long-standing practice into the open, but many religious
> and medical groups were swift to condemn it, claiming killing would replace
> caring.
> "Again, we are faced with a law of the state which opposes the natural law
> of human conscience," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told Reuters.
> Dutch Calvinist opposition parties fear the proposed law will be abused.
> Some drew parallels with Nazi Germany.
> "The same line of reasoning is being used as in Germany in 1935...In the
> Netherlands, your life is no longer safe," said Bert Dorenbos of the Scream
> for Life group.
> "If doctors are not hesitating to kill people then they will not hesitate to
> withdraw medical treatment from people they do not like," he added.
> The Dutch bill moves the legal goalposts on a controversial and emotional
> issue that ranks alongside abortion.
> Australia's Northern Territory legalised medically assisted suicide for
> terminally ill patients in 1996, but this was later overturned.
> Other countries, such as Colombia and Switzerland have ruled that it is not
> a crime to help a terminally ill person to die as long as they have given
> clear and precise consent.
> While the Swiss outlaw active euthanasia, there is leeway for doctors to
> assist in suicides where they give patients lethal drugs but then leave them
> to administer them.
> Others, such as Denmark and Singapore and parts of the United States, Canada
> and Australia, give patients the right to refuse life-prolonging treatment.
> A series of court rulings and government guidelines since the 1970s gave
> Dutch doctors room to help patients die, but the criminal code was never
> amended, leaving them open to prosecution for murder.
> The new law sets strict conditions, demanding adult patients facing a future
> of continuous and unbearable suffering must make a voluntary,
> well-considered and lasting request to die.
> The doctor must have informed patients about their prospects, reached the
> firm conclusion that there was no reasonable alternative and consulted a
> second physician.
> A leading proponent of the bill, the Liberal D66 party, applauded the vote
> as an important step forward.
> "This is for people who are in great pain and have no prospect for recovery.
> These people want to die in a humane way, in a respectful way,"
> parliamentary leader Thom DeGraaf told Reuters Television.
> The Royal Dutch Medical Association also supported the bill, saying it
> formalised in law mercy killing procedures used by doctors for 20 years.
> The lawyer for Jack Kevorkian, jailed by U.S. authorities last year for
> assisting a terminally ill person's suicide, said he was happy about the
> Dutch action.
> "He's very pleased that the law has been enacted in the Netherlands for
> assisted suicide and feels that such a law, of course, is humane and that
> it's appropriate under the proper guidelines," Mayer Morganroth told
> Reuters.
> He said Kevorkian, now 72, believes that within the next three to five years
> assisted suicide will start to be allowed under laws in the United States.
> But the Dutch Roman Catholic Church said it would now be too easy for people
> to give up. About 34 percent of the Dutch are Catholics, 25 percent
> Protestant and 36 percent not affiliated with any church.
> "People who are ill but consider themselves a burden to their family, that's
> the problem," said Peter van Zoest, spokesman for the Bishops Conference.
> "...The Netherlands is the first country to legalise euthanasia since the
> Nazis," Monika Schweihoff, a doctor at the German hospital foundation, said
> in a statement. "Euthanasia is not the only option -- qualified hospice
> staff can also help terminally ill patients slip away painlessly."
> Steve Taylor, a lawyer and sociology lecturer at The London School of
> Economics and Political Science, said he believed in the right to die, but
> was concerned that economic and social pressures could lead to abuse of the
> law.
> "The right to die is, in my view, perfectly acceptable but I worry that the
> right to die could become translated into a duty to die. That is a key
> issue," he told Reuters.
> Recent figures show that Dutch doctors helped 2,216 patients, mostly cancer
> victims, to die in 1999, but it is estimated that some 60 percent of cases
> are not reported.
> A 1998 poll commissioned by the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society showed 92
> percent of Dutch people backed mercy killing, although one in 10 general
> practitioners was opposed. (Reuters)
> For reprint rights:Times Syndication Service
> Copyright © 2000 Times Internet Limited. All rights reserved.  Disclaimer

Marta Russell
author, Los Angeles, CA
Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract

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