The rise in euthanasia in The Netherlands, allegedly voluntarily at the person’s request, has raised questions about the state of medical ethics in that nation. The latest case being discussed is that of a woman who was killed by her physician because she was feeling depressed about her macular degeneration.
Dutch Euthanize Woman Despondent About Macular Degeneration; No Evidence of Routine Intervention to Address Depression
Wesley J. Smith, J.D., a lawyer and bio-ethics expert consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture, said the woman, in her eighties, was euthanized because of her impaired vision and other typical symptoms of advancing age. A 2010 annual report by the five regional euthanasia review committees in the Netherlands stated that the patient, a woman in her eighties, could no longer do many things that she once enjoyed [Note: I don’t know any senior citizen who can!]. “She lived on her own. She had always enjoyed intellectual challenges in her life” and had used the computer, emails and liked “reading, philosophising, debating, politics and art.” But she began feeling depressed as she felt like she was deteriorating due to macular degeneration, bouts with dizziness, poorer hearing and occasional incontinence.
Smith writes that these depressed states in the elderly are treatable with routine geriatric psychiatric interventions but that there was no indication whatsoever that her geriatric psychiatrist even attempted that type of help. In fact, as Smith sees it, the psychiatrist “might have killed her.” See Smith’s recent discussion of the euthanasia epidemic in the Netherlands in First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2012/02/22/euthanizing-the-mentally-ill-in-the-netherlands/
Another independent psychiatrist who was also consulted by the state noted that despite the patient’s poor hearing he was able to interview her successfully. “She was lucid and was well oriented to time, place and person,” the report said. “The interview did not reveal any memory problems. The patient was coherent and responded appropriately to questions. She was able to explain why her disabilities (deafness, impaired vision and dizziness) prevented her from living her life as she had always done….” According to the report, she wanted to end her life (or have it ended) because she was “suffering from being alive.”
The Dutch have reported a 19 percent year-to-year annual increase in assisted suicides in 2010, rising from 2,636 in 2009 to 3,136 in 2010. Their “guidelines” allow doctors to euthanize not just the terminally ill, but also the chronically ill, such as those with diabetes or heart disease. The emotionally and mentally ill can be killed, as well as infants with serious disabilities.
Also included in the 2010 numbers were 21 early-stage dementia patients who were euthanized by lethal injection, calling into question whether “guidelines” which require a patient’s ability to make an informed choice and to voluntarily request death could possibly have been met.
Despite these sad statistics, advocates of euthanasia refuse to acknowledge the problems and some groups in The Netherlands now want to legalize “dying assistance” for those 70 and older to encourage them in their desire to die for reasons of “humanity.”
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