Dutch Misgivings About Euthanasia Law

WCBA's show this week is about a report by the Quebec College of Medicine that suggests that active euthanasia be considered part of the range of appropriate care when death is both imminent and inevitable. Proponents point to the Netherlands -- a country that enacted legislation in support of euthanasia back in 2002 -- as an example for countries such as Canada to follow.

So, what do people in the Netherlands think of the law passed in their country? According to an article in The Mail, legalized euthanasia has led to a decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients. Palliative care is the branch of medicine that provides comfort and symptom relief as opposed to curative therapy. Pain control is a major goal of palliative care.

According to the article, patients in the Netherlands ask to die out of fear they won't receive appropriate pain treatment in their final days. Many of those patients are seniors.

Dr. Els Borst, the former Health Minister and author of the bill that legalized euthanasia there, now says she may have made a mistake in promoting the legislation. She made the astonishing admission that medical care for the terminally ill had declined since the law came into effect, and that more should have been done legally to protect people who wanted to die natural deaths.

Dr. Borst's comments come from a book by Dr Anne-Marie The on the history of euthanasia called Redeemer Under God.

In my interview with Dr. Yves Robert, Secretary of the Quebec College of Physicians, he made it clear that the College document suggesting euthanasia as an option refers to situations in which patients have untreatable pain and suffering despite excellent palliative care.

If you missed our show, here's the podcast.

Agree or not with euthanasia, at minimum, it should never be permitted as a substitute for palliative care.

This is a serious challenge to the principle of euthanasia. If good palliative care can't be guaranteed, I don't see how the Quebec College proposal can go forward.

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Previous Comments (1)

The Mail article is written by a guy named Simon Caldwell. If you look at the other articles this person has written you can see that the majority of them are about Catholic issues and are not neutral in their stance. It is therefore of no surprise that he has written an article that is negative towards euthanasia. You can see the other articles written by this author by clicking on his name in the article.

I am also not surprised that a book with the title Redeemer Under God is negative towards euthanasia. Also, this book has skewed Borst's position on euthanasia. According to Borst, palliative care in the Netherlands is poor and was poor before euthanasia was legalized. Borst feels that palliative care should have been improved before the government focused on euthanasia. She is, however, not against euthanasia, nor has she said that legalizing euthanasia has worsened palliative care.

What I object to is the suggestion that legalizing euthanasia in Canada will somehow diminish Canada's palliative care. This is completely baseless. The Netherlands had poor palliative care to begin with (according to Borst).

Palliative care in Canada is considered good, and legalizing euthanasia will only add to the care that patients receive. If I was in constant agonizing pain and knew I didn't have long to live, I would want this option. Forcing someone against their will to suffer in a situation such as this is not ethical.

Jason K, December 9, 2009 11:49 PM
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