Doctors in the Netherlands will now be able to take the lives of patients with severe dementia without fear of prosecution, despite the controversy generated by the procedure.
The country’s highest court granted the option after ruling on April 21 in favor of a doctor who euthanized a 74-year-old woman, who had authorized the process before her Alzheimer’s disease. Her condition then worsened, according to Dutch media outlet Trouw.
The woman, who had repeated in previous days that she did not want to die, was given a sleeping pill in a café, but she still reacted physically when the hypodermic needle was inserted and she stood up, so she had to be held by relatives.
Despite her prior authorization, the prosecutors sued the doctor, arguing that he had not consulted with the patient if she had changed her mind about the induced death, since the authorization contained the conditions “when I think the time is right,” and “at my request,” emanating from the old woman.
“A physician may make a written request in advance for euthanasia of persons with advanced dementia,” was The Hague court’s ruling that also stated that the authorization could be interpreted by the physician, abolishing the previous obligation to follow the authorization to the letter.
The application of euthanasia is still controversial in medical associations, as it is considered to violate ethics.
A matter of ethics
This was stated by the World Medical Association (WMA) when it reiterated that both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide violate “the principles of medical ethics” at its assembly in Tbilisi, Georgia, in October 2019.
At that time, the WMA also said that the physician should respect the “basic right” of the patient “to refuse medical treatment” and that the withdrawal of assistance in dying should not be considered “unethical” for a physician.
The president of the WMA, Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said, “We believe that this revised wording is in line with the views of the majority of physicians around the world.”
Since the Netherlands legalized euthanasia almost 20 years ago, doctors have claimed the lives of thousands of elderly people every year. In the Dutch culture of death, it is not surprising that thousands of citizens carry cards prohibiting doctors from euthanizing, and some elderly citizens express their fear of going to basic medical care because of the possibility of euthanasia.
Similarly, most moral and religious traditions disapprove of the practice of assisted dying, even if it is legally permitted.
This was demonstrated by a declaration signed in Portugal by representatives of Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities in May 2018.
In it, they agree that human life is inviolable and that they reject “assisted death in any of its forms, whether it be assisted suicide or euthanasia.”
They also emphasized that these practices originate in “a society that abandons, dehumanizes, and becomes indifferent.”
According to their experiences, these groups affirm that those who feel alone should not despair and should not ask for death.