June 3rd 2000

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Articles from this issue:

Canberra Observed: National Party vanishing ignominiously

National Affairs: Time to rethink UN treaties

Victoria: Transurban: now it’s Brack’s problem

Drugs: Why free heroin is not the answer

Economics: Markets or electorate?

Straws in the wind

Comment: Traditional supporters not buying what Coalition is selling

Population: Eastern Europe’s collapsing birth rates

United States: Poverty amidst the plenty

United States: Manipulating the next generation

Medicine: Teen contraceptive message has failed

New moves to legalise euthanasia in the Netherlands

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New moves to legalise euthanasia in the Netherlands

by News Weekly

News Weekly, June 3, 2000
New moves to legalise euthanasia in the Netherlands

The Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society (DVES) and its supporters are campaigning for the introduction of a Euthanasia Bill into the Summer session of the Dutch Parliament.

Although euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide are widely performed throughout the Netherlands in hospitals, clinics and during home visits, the practice remains officially illegal. Over the last ten years, euthanasia has been performed regularly throughout the Netherlands with the support of Royal Dutch Medical Association and many of the healthcare institutions.

Liberally interpreting “Guidelines” designed by the Medical Association, the Dutch courts have not prosecuted those cases which have been referred to them by the Coroner.

Euthanasia was originally envisaged by the Medical Association, to be restricted to those in the last stages of a terminal illness, but is now routinely extended to patients who suffer “psychic pain” or conditions which lead to “a deformation of personality”.

The Bill, first drafted in 1995, will resemble the Guidelines, but until international uproar forced the Government to withdraw the clause, extended consent to euthanasia to patients as young as 12 years of age. There is evidence that teenagers have already had access to euthanasia throughout the Dutch medical system. The DVES is still campaigning for the inclusion of the clause.

According to a survey conducted by the DVES itself, 90 per cent of general practitioners in Holland support euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The survey revealed that about 59 per cent of these deaths were not reported to the coroner, as is required under the Guidelines.

A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, (Groenewoud, et al., “Clinical Problems with the Performance of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands,” February 24, 2000) discusses “Death completion” in cases in which the “patient did not die within the expected time-frame, patient awoke from coma or never became comatose”. In 18 per cent of assisted suicide cases, the physicians reported that they felt obliged to finish the job, by administering a lethal injection. In at least 4 per cent of cases, the lethal dose was recorded as being administered by “an unknown person”.

These “problems” and the large levels of inaccurate, dishonest and incomplete reporting has obviously troubled the Dutch Government. The British medical journal, The Lancet, reports it has allocated the equivalent of $3 million (US) to train general practitioners to be “euthanasia consultants”, specialists who will be randomly assigned to offer expert advice and second opinions to improve that “quality of care” given during death delivery.

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