Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Grim Reaper Makes House Calls in the Netherlands

In 2001 The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia and, along with it, assisted suicide. Various government ‘safeguards’ were put in place to show who should qualify, and perhaps more importantly, doctors acting in accordance with these ‘safeguards’ would not be prosecuted.

For the five years immediately following the law’s enactment physician-induced deaths remained level - and even fell in some years.

In 2007 Theo Boer, a European assisted suicide watchdog wrote that ‘there doesn’t need to be a slippery slope when it comes to euthanasia. A good euthanasia law, in combination with the euthanasia review procedure, provides the warrants for a stable and relatively low number of euthanasia.’ Most of his colleagues drew the same conclusion.

But, says Theo Boer, today; “We were wrong - terribly wrong, in fact. In hindsight, the stabilisation in the numbers was just a temporary pause. Six years ago, the numbers of these deaths show an increase of 15% annually, year after year.” And since then the number has doubled with the 6,000 line to be crossed this year. Euthanasia is on the way to become a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients.

As the assisted suicide bill goes to Lords in the UK, the Dutch watchdog who once backed euthanasia warns UK of 'slippery slope' to mass deaths. Boer’s intervention comes as peers prepare to debate the Assisted Dying Bill, promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor.
The bill, which has its second reading, would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.

Professor Boer, speaking in a personal capacity last week, said he now believed that the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure. Anti-euthanasia campaigners and disability activists called on politicians to listen to the professor’s warning.

He said he was concerned at the extension of killing to new classes of people, including the demented and the depressed, and the establishment of mobile death units of ‘travelling euthanizing doctors’. Professor Boer said campaigners for doctor-administered death ‘will not rest’ until a lethal pill is made available to anyone over 70 who wishes to die. ‘Some slopes truly are slippery,’ he added. Professor Boer admitted he was ‘wrong – terribly wrong, in fact’ to have believed regulated euthanasia would work. ‘I used to be a supporter of the Dutch law. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a very different view.
Doctors in neighbouring Belgium are collectively killing an average of five people every day by euthanasia – with a 27 per cent surge in one year.
And last February the government approved euthanasia for children. Consent by minors?

The latest euthanasia figures for the Netherlands show that nearly one in seven deaths are at the hands of doctors. In 2012, there were 4,188 deaths by direct euthanasia – 3 per cent of all deaths – and 3,695 deaths by direct euthanasia in 2011. The figures do not include deaths by terminal sedation, where patients are rendered unconscious before they are dehydrated and starved to death, an act often referred to as ‘euthanasia by omission’.

Under Lord Falconer’s bill, a terminally-ill patient would be able to ask for drugs to kill him or herself. Two doctors would need to approve, and to be satisfied the patient was of sound mind and settled view, and had not been influenced by others.

Sven Ljungholm
PhD Ethics and the Development of Human Values
Liverpool, UK


Anonymous said...

God forgive us for playing God!


Anonymous said...

Surely doctors are meant to be life givers not life takers. Healers, physicians - Thou shalt not kill.


Anonymous said...

Excellent and timely!


Barbara Sanjivi, Former Canada said...

This is an interesting topic now that I am getting older. It is easy to say when you are well that euthanasia should not be legal. However, what would I feel if I was in terrible pain and there was no cure. There are some diseases that death is horrific. Would God want me to suffer so severely? I don't know.

I watched my brother die. At times he was in terrible pain and he said to me if this is my future I want to die now. As it turned out they were able to control his pain and he died in a relatively calm way. I will say it nearly broke me seeing him in pain. It was bad enough that he was dying at 69, was pain also necessary??? Now the thought is that perhaps pain can be controlled in others and euthanasia would not be necessary. I find myself unable to make a firm decision on this.

However I wouldn't want just anyone deciding that it was my time to die. I would want to be able to make that decision myself.

Just my thoughts as I ponder this tonight.

Anonymous said...

There's no getting around it that what is happening in western Europe is scary and is no doubt connected to the demise of the Xian faith and the complete secularization of society.

I hope it doesn't become wide spread this side of the pond (if I'm not mistaken Oregon has already legalized it to some extent)but I doubt that it can be avoided from happening now that the whole can of worms has actually been opened.

The news media with its discussion of complicated issues in 30 second sound bites and its glorification of celebrities, some of whom may be very bright but others of whom may be total nitwits who just happen to know how to talk in front of a camera, might via celebrities make it sound like a wonderful idea and a fantastic way to help balance the budget (less social security payments going out, etc.). The next thing you know it will become a popular rallying cry for people who think they're being sophisticated and "with it". ("with it?" Did I just give away my age? lol!)

Anyway, as a nurse I know that the main concern for most people during the end of their lives is pain control. Pain can now be controlled very well and in many cases eliminated. Hospice has done a fantastic job in this area. The Xian response to end of life issues should be the promotion of hospice care, not euthanasia. Anyway, that's my take on it.

And btw, I'm not promoting extensive life saving measures on very elderly 90 year old frail people who might wind up with broken ribs and punctured lungs from a round of CPR, or invasive procedures that the patient will then have to heal from when they're going to die very soon anyway. But I do believe that people should go as naturally as possible (and as pain free as possible) when the time comes.

Daryl Lach
USA Central

"You Must Go Home By the Way of the Cross, To Stand With Jesus In the Morning!"

Anonymous said...

Are we playing God by needlessly prolonging life beyond that which is possible? Some diseases etc. that once were death sentences, can now be controlled by medication, and the patient can live a productive life and die of old age (such as HIV, diabetes, etc), and other conditions - such as strokes - can be managed and the person live a productive life. However, others can't. Are we playing God by forcing them to stay alive?

Just my thoughts....

Yours in Christ,
Graeme Randall
Former Australian East

Anonymous said...

I work as a nurse in Palliative Care (Hospice) and my experience of caring for people with life limiting illness supports the need for good symptom control to try to give quality of life rather then assist dying.

Anonymous said...

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury has surprisingly come out in favour of Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords two days ago on Friday 18 July.

He writes about 'compassion' for those suffering and 'comfort, healing and a new sense of dignity'. But he barely mentions the specialty of palliative medicine or the hospice movement, which seeks to do exactly that. Nor does he tell us that symptoms accompanying dying are less to be feared than at any time in history, because of medical advances, and that requests for assisted suicide or euthanasia are extremely rare amongst those who are properly cared for. Nor does he bring a call to make this excellent care much more widely accessible. In fact, to the contrary, he seems to be suggesting that we need to legalise assisted suicide because there is a postcode lottery of hospice care.

Carey has produced a piece that is high on emotion but weak on argument; that enthrones personal autonomy above public safety; that sees no meaning or purpose in the face of suffering or value in a life with severe disability and that appears profoundly naïve about the abuse of elderly and disabled people.

UK Former - From UK Editorial

Anonymous said...

What can we do?

Write to Peers
This is crucial. This is your chance to have someone with a vote on Lord Falconer's Bill hear why such a law would hurt you. Members of the House of Lords do not have constituents and for hundreds of newer peers, this will be their first opportunity to vote on the issue, so it is up to you to engage them.

Contact your MP
The bill is being debated in the House of Lords, but your elected representatives should know how you feel about this issue, so contact them or arrange a meeting.

Ask them to sign EDM 86,

Challenge the PM & stand with disabled people
This bill is set to be subject to a free vote, but many senior politicians have already publicly declared their opposition to legal change. Parliamentarians have accepted party leaders' overall vision in electing them - these same leaders must not be afraid to offer leadership in opposing the 'Assisted Dying Bill'.

Sign Not Dead Yet's petition seeking action from the Prime Minister to back up his declared opposition to assisted suicide
Join disabled people outside Parliament on 18 July to lobby peers.

Engage with the media
Write to national and local newspapers, comment on online news items, phone in to radio shows, contact news editors offering to share your story more fully and speak out on social media. In an area where it all too often seems that whoever shouts loudest wins, be brave, be respectful and be honest. Do you have relevant personal or professional experiences that you could share?

Active officer

Anonymous said...

Tim Stanley wrote this in the Telegraph:
'I want to address Lord Carey as one Christian to another. First, life is a gift from God: it is not ours to decide when it should end. This is not to say that we cannot make death more comfortable or that we should persevere unnecessarily with “overzealous” treatment if a patient does not require it. But a core principle of Christianity is that life is sacred and should be preserved. Second, our actions as individuals have a wider consequence. In exerting their own legal right to die, an individual might set a precedent whereby others could find themselves compelled to follow suit. It is perfectly understandable that someone with a terminal illness may ask, “Why should I have to suffer?” But we have to recognise that altering the law to suit one set of circumstances could have a negative effect in others. In Belgium and the Netherlands, for instance, assisted dying has become more and more commonplace – even being extended to cases of children.
Put these two points together and you have the perfect combination of orthodox teaching and the concern for social justice. A synergy I’d like to see expressed more often in public. One convincing argument against assisted dying has been put forward by the Christian socialist Giles Fraser, who argues that the concept of “choice” is naïve. Often when people “choose” to die, they do so under a mix of bureaucratic and emotional pressure – and such a “choice” can be a false one: “The moral language of the supermarket has become the only moral currency that is accepted. Which is why, for me, assisted dying is the final triumph of market capitalism: we have become consumers in everything, even when it comes to life and death. And as history demonstrates, the losers in this equation are always going to be the most vulnerable.”
Too true. Look, the reality is that many people are going to desire death and even turn to relatives for help – this is part and parcel of the human condition. Let us not lie to ourselves about how difficult mortality can be or the moral dilemmas involved. But what should society, as a corporate body, say in response? Should it stand back and defend “choice”? Or should it set as its standard the belief that life must be cherished and that the medical authorities must in all instances seek to save it? Is it healthier to live in a society that invests in palliative care or one that quietly, subtly, maybe subconsciously encourages others to remove their burden of existence from the shoulders of other people? It is a complicated, painful debate that should be conducted with recognition of the tragedy it involves. But from a Christian perspective, the answer is clear. Life is life, and we seek a society that cherishes life'.

Like countless others, I have lost close family members to cancer, all of whose deaths were not quick. But I have to say - I do believe life belongs to God, and it isn't the decision of humans to determine its end.

Anonymous said...

The last writer wrote: 'First, life is a gift from God: it is not ours to decide when it should end'

There is a certain dichotomy in this statement as it is man ( in the form of medical science and specialist advancement) that makes it possible to live a far more extended physical life than ever deemed possible in history.

God often is pushed out of the equation and side lined when the natural life course has been run and is being artificially extended beyond its original divinely appointed intent.

Death is often a blessed release, definitely not the bogeyman or the grim reaper to be feared for those who are at the natural end of it. Sooner or later we all physically die, some die young through horrible diseases and leave a wonderful impact and legacy. Others live through to reach very old and frail age where every dignity and quality of basic living has been denied.

Then there are those in vegetative state who, without artificial life prolonging artefacts would die naturally as God intended them to but are kept alive by people who want to play God.

Recently my brother, at the end of his natural life, asked the doctor in the hospice he was being cared for with superb dignity and love for possibilities to not prolong his agony any further. Ultimately medication was provided and he said 'thanks doc, much appreciated' and shook her hand....35 minutes later...blessed release for a brave man.

No horrible Liverpool pathway of deliberate dehydration or starvation for him! Just a serene and peaceful ending to a life well lived. Dignified in life and dignified in death.


Anonymous said...

In reply to 'ACTIVE UKTI' - I agree with your assessment of dichotomy. That's what this situation is. I am not decrying the advances of medical science, and like countless others, I have benefitted from it from time to time - hence I am able to contribute towards this discussion! I also agree with your point that people shouldn't be kept alive artificially when they are in a vegetative state, but who gets to choose where and when or indeed if a person is deemed to be at the end of their natural life? One person's assessment will be different from another's, as we all have different reactive thresholds, whether they be of pain, compassion or reason. One member of a family may wish to terminate a loved one's life, whereas another family member will disagree. Similarly with doctors. And turning off a life support machine is very different to giving a lethal cocktail of drugs. Making and/or implementing these decisions is, in actual fact, playing God with human life, and it's something I feel we are not qualified to do as Christians and shouldn't even be thinking this way. We should believe in and call on the power of prayer - after all, God can and does answer them, and He is a merciful God, a fact which I can attest to during family illness. If we don't believe that, we are cutting God out, and there will be no hope for us as a spiritual force.
It does alarm me that officers - supposed to be spiritual leaders - are talking this way. To where is the flock being led? Not to the road of reliance on God, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections? Or do they?


Anonymous said...

Well, this fellow Christian does think that way. Life is full of moral dilemma's where we often have to make life or death choices. And in the end, when it affects you and you alone, it is an individual choice and not a corporate institutional one.

Active and assisted euthanasia has been practiced under different guises and in different ways for many centuries. Today it goes on from increasing a dose of medicine to speed on the process to the deliberate starvation and dehydration of the body to the point of no return. Then there is the turning off of a life support system ( when with such a system, the person could have 'lived' for a considerable longer time, even years. The notice 'no resuscitation' over the bed is a form of assisted dying too when with active medical intervention life (God) could well make a miracle happening ;)

As to myself in my pastoral and teaching ministry it is refreshing to hear someone at the end of his or her fulfilled life say' this is enough, no more' and journey with them to their final breath, assisted or not. Death is not to be feared at all, rather to be looked forward to at the appropriate time (and it is amazing how many people actually do that!!)

So let us not play God and allow God to be God!


Anonymous said...

People do not sterilize needles, they come sterile packaged as standard.

Rather ignorant and flippant remark in my humble opinion...


Anonymous said...

'So let us not play God and allow God to be God!

You would appear to be one confused individual by this comment, which, with respect, is in direct conflict with the rest of your musings.

An article in the Telegraph newspaper said this:

"The leaders of all the major faiths in Britain have issued a joint statement in opposition to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, criticising it as a “grave error” that would 'change British society forever.'

In a joint statement to Members of the House of Lords, senior representatives, drawn from a broad coalition of Christian churches and denominations, and from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist faiths, said:

“While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all”.
Enabling people to be actively involved in the deaths of others would leave them “colluding” in the idea that the person is of “no further value”, they say. For frail and vulnerable individuals, the consequences, they say, would be “the most disastrous”.
The letter, seen by The Daily Telegraph, dismisses the safeguards in the Bill as inadequate. It points to past abuse and neglect scandals in hospitals and care homes as it dismisses as “naïve” the hope safeguards would not be breached.
All the major Christian denominations including Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals and free churches, have also added their voices to the warning.
Far from bringing comfort to the dying, a change in the law would heap further distress and pressure on people at the most vulnerable time of their lives, they argue."

If 'all' the major denominations are against it, I assume that includes TSA, so why on earth is an active SA officer voicing such dissenting views? As I understand it, officers pledge total obedience to the Army.

Anonymous said...

'So let us not play God and allow God to be God!

'You would appear to be one confused individual by this comment, which, with respect, is in direct conflict with the rest of your musings.'

There is no confusion on my part in any shape or form, I can see that you have completely missed the nuance!

Dissenting views are healthy and these have all a place in any church organisation to allow for strong informed debate and discussion. There has never ever been one moment in the history of the SA that there were no strongly differing views on any subject matter. It's internationalism and varied cultures makes sure of that. Long may that be the case.

As I stated, people have been, and continue to be assisted in their dying by others for much longer than you and I have been alive. This much against their wishes of course - moral dilemma's galore.

Think of any theatre of war where people have deliberately been put in harms way or any 'legal' execution by lethal injection, electricity or firing squad.

People have also been kept alive against their direct wishes, sometimes family members have for their own various honourable and dishonourable selfish reasons decided not to let go of a loved one and have played God by keeping someone artificially alive for 10-15 years without even a flicker of 'life'.

We consciously and deliberately allowed our young daughter to die rather than leave her severely brain damaged in a vegetative state after having been deprived of life giving oxygen for too long. We 'assisted in her dying' by instructing others and do not regret for one moment (however painful) that decision made.

In our marriage we are totally agreed that neither of us will play God to extend each others life beyond the life span the Divine has allotted in terms of quality and quantity. These are of course never easy decisions to make or take but we believe in the sanctity and dignity of both life AND death - and to allow for an as smooth as possible a transition as these are intertwined and not to be separated.

Death holds no fear in any shape or form and should not be avoided at any cost. It is not always the grim reaper, more often than not the blessed releaser. Most people who have lived well ( however long or short the span)are able to die well. One of the most potent songs in our songbook is the one written by Richard Slater - 536

Is it not wonderful to have a clear conscience before God?

To put it controversially and rather insensitively, we are often much kinder and generous to our much loved suffering animals!


Anonymous said...

Active UK

You don't get my point either, sadly. I don't think your 'theatre of war' scenario is relevant to a discussion on assisted dying - people who die in war are casualties of a bigger picture, and not individually targeted - more like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But allowing your daughter to die in the circumstances you describe wasn't 'playing God' either - without knowing all the circumstances I would guess she would have died without continued help on life support. That is SO much different to giving people lethal injections to help them on their way when they've just 'had enough'. That is direct interference with a person's natural lifespan, whose length is determined by God, and whose end is not ours to give.