Rise in reports of euthanasia
21 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — The number of reported cases of euthanasia has risen for the first time since special review boards were established five years ago.
21 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — The number of reported cases of euthanasia has risen for the first time since special review boards were established five years ago.
The regional review boards, called toetsingscommissies, were set up to examine — after the event — whether the strict regulations for mercy killings were applied correctly.
The patient must make a "voluntary and deliberate request" for euthanasia; be experiencing unbearable suffering; and have no prospect of improvement.
The doctor must inform the patient about his or her condition and the prospects and consult at least one other independent physician. The euthanasia or assisted suicide must be carried out "in a medically justified way".
Doctors who fail to follow the procedures can be referred to the public prosecutor and face murder charges.
The boards' annual report shows 1,886 cases of euthanasia were reported in 2004 - 70 more than the previous year.
For the first time, one of the 2004 cases involved a dementia patient.
The review panel dealing with the case decided the doctor meticulously applied the rules. Patients with Alzheimer's who are conscious of the progress of their illness can at times "suffer unbearably".
Newspaper 'De Volkskrant' reported that the public prosecutor dismissed a case two years ago against a doctor who ended the life of a patient who was in the early stages of dementia.
The latest case was not referred to the prosecutor because all the legal criteria had been applied properly, Reina de Valk, chairperson of the five regional review boards said.
De Valk said the ruling in this case was not a signal all mercy killings or assisted suicides involving patients with dementia would be tolerated.
Such cases, she said, would continue to pose a dilemma for doctors as the patient had to give informed consent and be manifesting signs of "suffering unbearably".
De Valk said most patients in the early stages of dementia hang on to life and do not consider euthanasia.
"Requesting euthanasia because you foresee you will shortly become demented requires a lot of courage," she said.
The review boards report showed four doctors were judged to have breached the euthanasia regulations. Their cases were referred to the public prosecutor and the health inspectorate. One of the doctors ended the life of a coma patient.
While there were exceptions, De Valk said, the general medical opinion is that people in comas do not suffer.
Dealing with the rise of reported cases in 2004, she acknowledged this broke the trend of the previous four years when the number of reported cases fell by 20 percent.
The review boards were established in 1998 to stimulate reporting of euthanasia by making clear how such cases are evaluated. A database containing review board decisions will be launched this year.
It was estimated a few years ago that the actual number of mercy killings and assisted suicides by medical professionals was twice as high as the number reported.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news + euthanasia