Death on demand in the Netherlands

Reporting on a meeting of the Netherlands Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE), Guardian journalist  correctly identifies the "strong whiff of [white] upper-middle class entitlement" that pervades pro-euthanasia movements everywhere.

The Netherlands and Belgian euthanasia movements are increasingly impatient of any reluctance by any doctor to accede to a demand for euthanasia whether it is from a mentally ill young person or the family members of a person with dementia.

de_Bellaigue.jpgSteven Pleiter, the director of the Levenseindekliniek [Netherlands End of Life Clinic] wants to achieve a “shift in mindset” so that in future doctors will feel more confident accommodating demands for “the most complex varieties of euthanasia, like psychiatric illnesses and dementia” not through a change in the law but through a kind of “acceptance that grows and grows over the years”. When asked if he understood the scruples of those doctors who refuse to perform euthanasia because they entered their profession in order to save lives, Pleiter replied: “If the situation is unbearable and there is no prospect of improvement, and euthanasia is an option, it would be almost unethical [of a doctor] not to help that person.”

De Bellaigue recounts the experience of a female GP, Marie-Louise  from Belgium. "In 2017, one of her patients, a man in late middle-age, was diagnosed with dementia and signed a directive asking for euthanasia when his condition worsened. As his mind faltered, however, so did his resolve – which did not please his wife, who became an evangelist for her husband’s death. 'He must have changed his mind 20 times,' Marie-Louise said. 'I saw the pressure she was applying.'

In order to illustrate one of the woman’s outbursts, Marie-Louise rose from her desk, walked over to the filing cabinet and, adopting the persona of the infuriated wife, slammed down her fist, exclaiming, 'If only he had the courage! Coward!'

By the time she went away on holiday last summer, she believed she had won from her patient an undertaking not to press for euthanasia. But she had not reckoned with her own colleague in the practice, a doctor who takes a favourable line towards euthanasia, and when Marie-Louise returned from holidays she found out that this colleague had euthanised her patient.

When I visited Marie-Louise several months after the event, she was making plans to leave the practice, but hadn’t yet made an announcement for fear of unsettling her other patients.

'How can I stay here?' she said. 'I am a doctor and yet I can’t guarantee the safety of my most vulnerable patients.'"

For more information on euthanasia in the Netherlands read here and on Belgium read here.

The full story from the Guardian can be read here.


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