Mobile Euthanasia Units in the Netherlands

On March 1, 2012, Right-to-Die in the Netherlands rolled out 6 customized vans designed to carry out the death wishes of patients whose doctors refuse to perform requested euthanasia. Under the law, doctors who carry out euthanasia are protected from prosecution. Nevertheless, many Dutch doctors are still afraid of performing euthanasia.

They refer to their religious beliefs, or simply do not know all the details of the new legislation regulating this area. Because of their convictions or lack of legal or medical knowledge, many doctors are not in a position to carry out euthanasia.

There are 6 specialized teams for the mobile units, each with a doctor and one or two nurses, that will criss-cross the country  to carry out euthanasia at the home of patients who meet the criteria and have registered, and whose own doctors refuse to do so.

Patients must be mentally alert when making their request to die, face a future of unbearable, interminable suffering, and both the patient and the doctor, who has to obtain a second opinion before euthanasia is carried  out, must agree there is no cure. Each case is then reported to one of five special commissions, each made up of a doctor, a jurist and an ethical expert charged with verifying that all criteria have been observed.

Proponents say it will help carry out the increasing number of requests for euthanasia and help address the needs of people who may be overlooked by strict regulations. The number of cases in the Netherlands rose 19% in 2010 with a total of 3,136 cases, which represents 2% of all deaths annually. Right-To-Die Netherlands, which receives around 1,000 requests per year for its services, said it has already been contacted by 70 patients interested in the new mobile euthanasia units. The society, which today has 131,000 members and some 150 volunteers in the Netherlands, finances its activities through a yearly membership fee of 17.50 euros.

Critics are calling these mobilized teams “death squads.” Some say: service may result in deaths of patients who could be treated if they continued going to doctors or received some other kind of help. A physician from the Royal Dutch Society of Doctors said “requests for euthanasia must be handled by doctors who have developed a long-term relationship with the patient and have a full understanding of their case.” He says “we are not against euthanasia if there is no other alternative” and has serious doubts that a doctor focused on performing euthanasia would take a holistic view of the patient.

Concerning Mobile Euthanasia Units, in a Feb 25th article, “Assisted Suicide Will Lead to Abuse” in the Vancouver Sun, Cristina Alarcon agrees that legalization in the Netherlands “has led to a ‘kind’ of slippery slope” allowing the healthcare system to do what it wants with patients. She says that the non-compliant patients “are over-dosed with sedatives, starved and dehydrated” and then not reported thus “avoiding risk of prosecution for not following proper ‘euthanasia’ guidelines.” She feels this same thing could happen in Canada and would be “a perfect recipe for abuse.”

Actually, in mobile units in the Netherlands, the procedure can only be performed if the patients have an incurable disease, intolerable pain and no hope of improvement. Patients must also state clearly that they wish to die. Doctors who carry out euthanasia, helping patients pass away in a dignified and painless manner under those rules, are protected from prosecution. Patients may die at home or in the unit’s clinic.,72916.asp

Yet experts, ordinary citizens, and even some Dutch opponents of the euthanasia law say opponents are exaggerating in their criticism of the Dutch experience with legalized euthanasia.
“We’ve been studying euthanasia and other end-of-life decision-making ever since 1990 … and so far, we have no indication of a slippery slope,” said Dr. Johannes van Delden, a Dutch physician and ethics specialist, who has provided expert testimony at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s court challenge to Canada’s prohibition against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Van Delden, one of six international and Canadian members of the Royal Society of Canada panel that recommended last autumn that Parliament allow a “permissive, yet carefully regulated” assisted death regime, co-authored a 2007 study that cited evidence rebutting a key slippery-slope charge.

“There is no evidence for a higher frequency of euthanasia among the elderly, people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses, including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities,” the report asserted.
Read more:

Nine Myths about Euthanasia in the Netherlands


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s