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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dutch Euthanasia Guidelines

Update below!

I skimmed through this. The Netherlands is about to update its official guidelines for euthanasia:
A letter outlining the new directives was expected to be submitted to parliament for discussion by mid-October, but the new policy will not require a change of law, Dutch Health Ministry spokeswoman Annette Dijkstra said Thursday.
Proponents and opponents agree the change is doubly important because it will provide the model for how the Dutch will treat other cases in which patients are unable to say whether they want to live or die, such as the mentally retarded or elderly people who have become demented.
That sounds a bit dire. There are opponents within The Netherlands:
The commissions report around 2,000 people are euthanized in this country of 16 million each year, using a mix of sedatives and a lethal dose of muscle relaxant. But independent studies suggest the number of unreported cases is higher.

Cases of euthanasia for "people with no free will" — such as infants and severely demented or mentally retarded people — were left in a legal gray area by the law because they were so controversial.
The real deal is that although there is a commission to review cases of euthanasia, its decisions are not binding on prosecutors. So it seems as if euthanasia of the seriously ill will become more and more commonplace. Surely one can treat pain. In some cases the treatment might involve sedation strong enough to induce death eventually, true. This change in policy seems as if it is more involved with cost and inconvenience.

Extrapolating from a population of 16 million to our own (295 million), the reported number of 2000 would become 36,800. That's a lot of deaths, but one would guess that more will die with this policy change.

Update: Perhaps this DU thread (posted today!) can express the mindset behind the idea of why it's good to kill retarded kids. Part of the original post:
There is perhaps a single predictable time of life when taking crack-cocaine is sensible, harmless and both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Indeed, for such an occasion it may be commended. Certain estimable English doctors were once in the habit of administering to terminally-ill cancer patients an elixir known as the "Brompton cocktail". This was a judiciously-blended mixture of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. The results were gratifying not just to the recipient. Relatives of the stricken patient were pleased, too, at the new-found look of spiritual peace and happiness suffusing the features of a loved one as (s)he prepared to meet his or her Maker.

Drawing life to a close with a transcendentally orgasmic bang, and not a pathetic and god-forsaken whimper, can turn dying into the culmination of one's existence rather than its present messy and protracted anti-climax.

There is another good reason to finish life on a high note. In a predominantly secular society, adopting a hedonistic death-style is much more responsible from an ethical utilitarian perspective. For it promises to spare friends and relations the miseries of vicarious suffering and distress they are liable to undergo at present as they witness one's decline.

A few generations hence, the elimination of primitive evolutionary holdovers such as the ageing process and suffering will make the hedonistic death advocated here redundant. In the meanwhile, one is conceived in pleasure and may reasonably hope to die in it.
Thank you, I think not.

I'm reminded of your post- THAT post, about your own trials. That still haunts me.

As has been repeated often, but not often enough, "He who saves one life is as he saved the world entire."

Being our brothers keepers is not about when it's easy, but rather, when it isn't.
This change in policy seems as if it is more involved with cost and inconvenience.

That is kinda the sum of the parts isn't it? It solves a lot of your medical cost problems by just eliminating the patient. Frequently there are no good answers, but some are worse than others. This one appears to be really really bad.
You both make good points.

I'm honestly not sure how one parses the whole thing out. How do you separate one person's right to life from another's? These things sound so reasonable at the beginning.

But what I am reading is that they seem to move inexorably on to the "lebensunwertig".

There was a reference in the article to killing babies with spina bifida.
I'm depressed.
Today, I understand that depression.

There are some decisions that can't be remade.

There is no life unworthy of life. Not really- no matter how hard some want that to be so.
Yes, exactly. As Tommy said, there may not be a good solution, but this has got to be the worst possible one.

If we start categorizing other people's lives as unworthy, then that's that. There is no moral line once you concede that point.

That doesn't mean we have to leave people screaming in agony because more sedatives would be unhealthy for them. It doesn't mean that we have to force people to undergo medical treatments they don't want.

But looking at a kid and saying "we will end your life" is a different thing entirely, and this is what they are doing.
Welcome to Peter Singer's world, where you can take up to 30 days to decide.
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