Dutch Euthanasia clinic criticised for death of a woman with tinnitus

Reports suggest that the clinic's managers are 'surprised' by this ruling. Who can question them? We can and we should question how a clinic that is set up precisely to service euthanasia requests, especially when no-one else wants to step up to the plate, can ever remain entirely objective.The existence of such a 'service', like with the Belgian mobile euthanasia teams, also points to the reality that there will always be those who will agree to a request. Doctor shopping is an inevitability made less demanding on time and resources by this 'one-stop-shop' in The Hague.The evaluation committee claims that a more thorough psychiatric evaluation should have been done. This was the same concern in the earlier two cases. Levenseindekliniek claimed that they had been thorough in their approach. Who can gainsay that claim with any certainty now?Tinnitis is a physical ailment that would no doubt create possible psychological problems for the sufferer. There are plenty of remedies available for tinnitus, but we do not see any reference to these in the media reports. But here in lies another problem: even if there were either psychological or medical remedies that might have helped this woman to one degree or another, neither she nor the other two persons nor anyone else is bound to accept any form of treatment. So this reliance on the nebulous term 'suffering unbearably' is utter nonsense. If I refuse therapy or treatment I may well claim to be 'suffering unbearably'. The fact that I may have brought this situation upon myself by refusing treatment and the possibility that I may be doing so because I am suicidal is not relevant here.Why then has the Euthanasia Evaluation Committee issued these three slaps on the wrist to this death facility? Not that these 'misdemeanours' seem to amount to much. In the whole time the Dutch euthanasia law has been in operation there has never been a prosecution.Could it be that the Euthanasia Evaluation Commissions are feeling under pressure from recent scrutiny? Professor Theo Boer, a former member of an evaluation committee for nine years, changed his mind completely in a very public about face last year. Moreover, the three cases which involved this death facility had all received media attention; not to mention the fact that even the most ardent supporters of the Dutch legislation will surely have raised eyebrows over euthanasia for tinnitus or for fear of a nursing home.The fact that the Levenseindekliniek were 'surprised' at this ruling is itself telling. When you set yourself up as the expert organisation you're claiming some level of expertise. But, of course, if you're reporting a case to the commission you would surely also want to be confident that the paperwork would pass scrutiny. If you were not confident that a euthanasia death was within the broadly excepted and expanding remit of the interpretation of the law, you would simply not complete any report. Who would ever know?While we welcome the commission's scrutiny and questioning of these cases it is far too early to tell whether it is a precursor to any attempt to rein in an out-of-control regimen. 

Related articles:

Psychiatric euthanasia deaths tripled in the Netherlands.
Dutch euthanasia law needs reform. Euthanasia is granted to people who have years to live
What happens once euthanasia becomes legal. The Netherlands experience
Dutch woman euthanased who feared going to a nursing home
Dutch Ethicist: "Assisted Suicide: Don't Go There"

Now there's a headline you don't see that often: One of the Dutch Regional Euthanasia Evaluation Committees has slapped the Levenseindekliniek (end-of-life-clinic) over the wrist over a euthanasia death. Not common, but this same clinic has now been criticised over three deaths over the last two years of its operation.

Levenseindekliniek was set up precisely for those people whose doctors do not support euthanasia generally or who do not support it in their particular case.

In this instance, the euthanasia death occurred for a 47 year old woman who suffered acute tinnitus. Tinnitus is a physical condition, experienced as noises or ringing in the ears or head when no such external physical noise is present. Tinnitus is usually caused by a fault in the hearing system; it is a symptom, not a disease in itself. Yes, it can be excruciating, as it clearly was for Gaby Olthuis.

Dutch News reports on the two earlier deaths that 'in April the Review Committee found that the mental competence of a depressed elderly woman should have been evaluated by a psychiatrist and in August the Review Committee found that the doctor did not substantiate the unbearable suffering of the patient.' The elderly woman in question requested euthanasia for fear of going to a nursing home.

The Evaluation Committee, as it did in the earlier cases, claimed that the Levenseindekliniek's actions were 'careless'. I am sorely tempted to misquote Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell here; but really, careless? Putting your shoes on the wrong foot or forgetting the park brake on a slope is careless! Perhaps there's something lost here in translation, but I don't think so.

It rather proves the point, if ever it needed proving, that a posteriori judgement of the facts has a fatal flaw: the main witness is deceased!