bourgeois medicine

Marta Russell ap888 at
Mon Apr 16 17:33:33 MDT 2001
 Article last updated:
 Sunday, April 15, 2001   3:18 AM MST

'Dutch Death' makes doctors all-powerful

THE Netherlands, by a peaceful and democratic process, just gave its doctors
a license to kill.

The New York Times, as usual, got the story embarrassingly wrong,
calling the
new law "aided suicide": "The new law insists adult patients must have
made a
voluntary, well-considered and lasting request to die." The law explicitly
allows patients to give a physician the right to kill them when in the
doctor's opinion they are too physically or mentally ill to decide for
themselves, provided he can get a second doctor to agree.

Unlike my native state, Oregon, which sadly became the first in our country
to authorize suicide under restricted circumstances, the victims of
the Dutch
Death need not have a fatal illness and they need not administer the death
blow themselves. Two doctors backing each other up are now authorized
by the
law to get rid of life they consider unworthy of living. This is not assisted
suicide. This is not even euthanasia. This is murder, pure and simple --
especially when, considering our rapidly advancing pain-control technology,
it is the doctor's skill, knowledge and compassion that decide whether
or not
a patient's suffering will be made bearable or not.

The victims of the Dutch Death will be people we will never know
about, never
hear from: the ones who would have recovered, the ones who might have
embraced their suffering, the depressed and mentally ill whose cries
for help
are met with efficient dispatch.

Doctors will take on the dual burden of healing and hurting. And the power
thrust upon them by the law will corrupt, as such power does. Doctors will
get used to the idea, their hospitals will benefit financially from
dispensing with expensive care of the chronically ill, and elites who
get off
on breaking taboos will praise their callousness as courage.

If you doubt how easily doctors (like other people) can get used to murder,
consider what happened last summer in France, where euthanasia is officially
a crime but "mercy killing" is gaining ground. At La Martiniere, a 120-bed
clinic in a suburb of Paris, prosecutors uncovered a scandal over " killing
for convenience by overworked staff," as The Guardian put it. As usual in
such cases, it was the nurses who rebelled.

Six nurses reported that doctors were giving "cocktails of death" to
intensive care patients so they could have their weekends free. "I
thought I
was going mad," one nurse said. "It seemed that everyone avoided talking
about what was going on. I remember seeing an old patient walking
about and
laughing, and then the next day she was dead."

Doctors' consciences were no obstacle. "He gave us the impression that
he was
doing people good," a colleague said, describing the process. "In the end,
the practice became institutionalized." Some killed were neither old,
nor in
a coma, nor even near death, one of the nurses told a French radio
show. In
the Netherlands, it is now official policy.

How will Europe react to legalized murder in its midst? Probably
ignore it,
maybe rationalize it. What about us? It seems to me such a radical departure
from civilized norms requires an official reaction, lest we dishonor
our own
war dead. Officially sanctioned murder cannot be treated as just an internal
matter for the Dutch. In the long run, it calls into question our special
alliance with Europe, which is ultimately based on shared values as
much as
it is on national self-interest.

At a minimum, Congress should offer refugee status to any Dutch
citizens who
fear that now or in the future they may be killed by the Dutch medical
establishment (an arm of the government in states with nationalized
health-care systems). Give us your tired, your poor, the sick who are
now the
hunted, yearning to breathe free.

Maggie Gallagher writes for Universal Press Syndicate. E-mail
GallagherIAV at

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