Alex Schadenberg summarizes problems in The Netherlands

A good summary of the situation in Belgium and the Netherlands. Cross posted from Alex's blog:  Did Rick Santorum exaggerate the euthanasia experience in the Netherlands?Rick Santorum has made some very strong comments concerning the euthanasia experiment in the Netherlands and it is reported that the "Dutch are outraged", so what did he say that has supposedly outraged the Dutch?

What did Rick Santorum say?

  1. Dutch people wear a bracelet that says — "Do not euthanize me."
  2. 10% of elderly people die by euthanasia.
  3. Half of the euthanasia deaths are involuntary.
  4. Many Dutch people go to another country for medical care, rather than a Dutch hospital.

What are the facts.
1. There is a group in the Netherlands that distribute cards to people who are opposed to euthanasia that states something like: do not euthanize me.  No it is not a bracelet.  It is possible that a similar group is distributing bracelets, but I only have knowledge of the card.

2. The Dutch are very specific concerning what euthanasia is, and what it is not.  The Dutch define euthanasia as a voluntary act that is done on request.  More recently the NVVE (Netherlands euthanasia lobby) has announced that they will begin to implement "Mobile Euthanasia Units" that will be oriented to euthanizing people who have dementia, who have disabilities, or who have been turned down by other doctors.  It is also considered acceptable for Dutch Psychiatrists to euthanize their patients for "lonliness".

The number of official euthanasia deaths has increased significantly over the past few years.  In 2010 it is reported that their were 3136 official euthanasia deaths which was up by 19% over 2009 and 2009 increased by 13% from 2008.

The 3136 official euthanasia deaths do not include the assisted suicide deaths, it does not account for the approximately 20% under-reporting, and it does not include the deaths of people who were not otherwise dying but died by intentional dehydration.  Nonetheless, how did Santorum come up with the 10% number?

A 2005 study of End-of-Life Practices in the Netherlands that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that death by dehydration had increased significantly from 2001.  In 2005, 7.1% of all deaths in the Netherlands were done by deep-continuous sedation followed by dehydration.  Recent reports suggest that death by deep-continuous sedation followed by dehydration has risen to approximately 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands.  Some of the 7.1% of deaths by deep-continuous sedation followed by dehydration are cases of euthanasia by dehydration.

When a person, who is not otherwise dying, is intentionally sedated and dehydrated to death, that death is clearly an act of euthanasia (euthanasia by dehydration or slow euthanasia), even though the definition used in the Netherlands, and most of the world, does not recognize euthanasia by dehydration as euthanasia.

Santorum numbers may be high, but they also may be close to the reality.

3. Santorum stated that half of all euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands are involuntary.

The 2005 study of End-of-Life Practices in the Netherlands that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that in 2005 there were 550 deaths without explicit request or consent in the Netherlands.  This does not represent half of all euthanasia deaths.

Where did Rick Santorum come up with the idea that half of all euthanasia deaths are involuntary?  I am not sure, but three studies that were recently published concerning euthanasia in Belgium found that:

  1. 32% of euthanasia deaths that were done by physicians in the Flanders region of Belgium were done without explicit request or consent.
  2. A similar study that analysed euthanasia deaths that were done by nurses in Belgium found that45% were done without explicit request or consent.
  3. The third study concerning the reporting of euthanasia in Belgium found that only 52.8% of all euthanasia deaths were reported.

Therefore Santorum was wrong about the Netherlands and almost right about Belgium.  A euthanasia advocate has challenged the conclusions of these three studies and my response has been, even if these studies are not completely accurate they clearly indicate that the Belgium euthanasia law is seriously abused.

4. Santorum stated that people in the Netherlands go outside of the country for medical treatment.  I have read an article that stated that some people who oppose euthanasia have gone to nursing homes in Germany rather than take the chance of living in a nursing home in the Netherlands.  As for the issue that Santorum raised, I have not been sent anything that would prove that this is true.  It doesn't mean that some people have not gone out of the country for medical treatment out of fear of dying by euthanasia, but it does mean that I do not have information to confirm this statement.  Maybe someone will send me an article that states otherwise.

Finally, there are very few experts on the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Tthe Netherlands is constantly trying to justify there euthanasia experiment.  The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland need to stop the euthanasia and assisted suicide experiment.

Euthanasia does not create greater human rights, in fact it eliminates certain human rights.
There is no new "right to die" but created by legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide only a right of the physician to be directly and intentionally involved with causing your death.

Whether Santorum exaggerated or not is simply a diversion from the real truth.  Euthanasia threatens the lives of many people.  It represents a form of elder abuse and in a social fabric that has an ingrained discrimination towards the lives of people with disabilities it reinforces a message that "some lives are not worth living."

Society needs to be committed to caring for people and not killing them.

  See also Wesley Smith's article: