By Alex SchadenbergExecutive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The 2014 Netherlands euthanasia report was released indicating that there was another 10% increase in assisted deaths. There were also 41 assisted deaths for psychiatric reasons and 81 assisted deaths for dementia. The term assisted death refers to deaths by euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Every five year the Netherlands has a meta-analysis euthanasia study. In 2010 the Lancet study indicated that 23% of all assisted deaths were unreported in the Netherlands.
The number of assisted deaths in the Netherlands continues to increase.
There were 2331 reported assisted deaths in 2008.
There were 2636 reported assisted deaths in 2009.
There were 3136 reported assisted deaths in 2010.
There were 3695 reported assisted deaths in 2011.
There were 4188 reported assisted deaths in 2012.
There were 4829 reported assisted deaths in 2013.
And now 5306 reported assisted deaths in 2014.
Whereas assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many - including myself - as a last resort... Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient's right and a physician's duty. A law that is now in the making obliges doctors who refuse to approve assisted dying to refer their patients to a willing colleague. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients' or relatives' wishes can be intense.
Other developments have taken place as well. The Dutch Right to Die Society founded a network of traveling euthanizing doctors, thus taking assisted dying out of the patient-doctor relationship. There is a strong public movement toward legalizing euthanasia for children 1 to 11 years of age. Whereas in the first years hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise. Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given assisted dying consisted of being aged, lonely or bereaved.
A recent study examining the first year at the Netherlands euthanasia clinic found that "tired of living" and dementia were common reasons for euthanasia. The study found that:
Of the 162 who died by an assisted death, the data indicates that 6 assisted deaths were done for psychological reasons, 21 assisted deaths were done for cognitive decline, such as dementia and 11 assisted deaths were done based on "tired of living." Tired of living means that the person does not have a specific illness.
The Netherlands euthanasia clinic has also been implicated in several controversial deaths:
An incompetent woman with dementia died by euthanasia, even after the nursing home opposed it.
A healthy 63 year old autistic man who was depressed and soon to retire felt he had no reason to live.
A healthy woman with Tinnitus died by euthanasia.
A woman died by euthanasia because she didn't want to live in a nursing home.
On February 6, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's assisted suicide law and in its decision it used language that would allow euthanasia.
The Netherlands experience with euthanasia is frightening. The Canadian government must either use the notwithstanding clause to prevent the legalization of euthanasia or to pass new legislation that is designed to make euthanasia and assisted suicide non-existent.