Why euthanasia pioneers are changing their minds.


This excellent article about the volta face of euthanasia pioneers from support to downright opposition written by Licia Corbella and published in the Calgary Herald.

Why euthanasia pioneers are changing their minds.

By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald columnist - July 18.

Recently, an influential and vocal supporter of euthanasia in the Netherlands changed his mind.

Theo Boer, who not only supported euthanasia, but was a member of one of five Dutch regional euthanasia review committees for nine years - which approved thousands of deaths - now admits that he "was wrong - terribly wrong."

"I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a different view," writes Boer (whose column was published in the Herald on Friday, but was originally written for the Daily Mail in the U.K.) to urge British people to not head down the same "slippery slope" that the Netherlands has skated down at an alarming speed.

The numbers of Dutch residents who are seeking euthanasia "show an increase of 15 per cent annually, year after year," complains Boer.

"Euthanasia is on the way to becoming a default mode of dying for cancer patients," he wrote.

Most troubling to Boer is the latest development in which the Dutch Right to Die Society, NVVE, has established a network of mobile euthanasia clinics, with the sole purpose of killing people who ask to die. "Doctors of the End of Life Clinic have only two options: administer life-ending drugs or send the patient away," writes Boer.

In other words, don't bother to seek anti-depressants or receive some grief counselling. It's death or nothing. Nice. The new face of compassion.

In the first years after euthanasia became legal in the Netherlands in 2001, "hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia were killed by their physicians, but those "numbers are now sharply on the rise," states Boer.

Many of "those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted of being aged, lonely or bereaved. Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades," he adds.

It's a wonder that it's taken Boer this long to acknowledge the vertical skating rink that is euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands.

Long before euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were legalized in the Netherlands, it was taking place quite openly. What started out as a plan to help elderly, terminally ill patients to die only after expressed consent, has metastasized into a Frankenstein monster. Now doctors can kill: depressed teenagers, in some cases without parental consent, people with dementia and infants who are born with deformities - and are clearly incapable of providing consent.

Other longtime proponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are starting to speak out about the mobile death squad free-for-all in the Netherlands.

Dr. Boudewijn Chabot, a Dutch psychiatrist, has been quoted as saying on the Dutch TV program Nieuwsuur that the law "has gone off the rails."

This from the very man who was convicted in 1991 for killing a healthy, sane 50-year-old woman who was depressed because one of her sons committed suicide, another died from illness and her husband left her.

Most parents would acknowledge that losing a child constitutes unbearable suffering and would lead to depression, but this woman needed counselling and compassion, not a lethal injection.

In 1994, the Supreme Court in the Netherlands upheld the lower court ruling concluding that Chabot was guilty but shouldn't be punished and could continue practising medicine. So, even Chabot, a euthanasia pioneer who believes it's OK to kill a sane, healthy 50-year-old social worker, says the slippery slope of euthanasia in the Netherlands has grown too steep. That should make your head spin!

Boer says another reason for his conversion away from euthanasia is how it is affecting doctors.

"Whereas the law sees assisted suicide and euthanasia as an exception, public opinion is shifting toward considering them rights, with corresponding duties on doctors to act," writes Boer.

"A law that is now in the making obliges doctors who refuse to administer euthanasia to refer their patients to a 'willing' colleague." In other words, doctors who went into their profession to heal and help people, will soon be compelled to kill or be an accessory to what many people will always view as pre-meditated murder.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says Quebec's Bill 52 would force that province's doctors to refer patients who wanted to be killed to their superior despite their objection on moral or professional grounds.

In his column, Boer wonders if the law either wasn't properly crafted in Holland, or whether "the mere existence of such a law is an invitation to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as a normality instead of a last resort?"

Schadenberg believes it's the latter. So do I.

"Once the genie is out of the bottle," concludes Boer, "it is not likely to ever go back in again."

Canadians must resolve to keep that genie locked away.