EUTHANASIA: Reporting Controls ‘Failing’ in Holland
Some doctors are ignoring euthanasia safeguards in the Netherlands, where the practice is allowed only to end "unbearable suffering." A survey published in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that doctors failed to report nearly two-thirds of euthanasia cases. Moreover, 20% of physician-assisted suicide cases occurred without a patient's "explicit request." In 17% of those cases, alternative treatment was available, violating the ban against euthanasia in such cases. About half of the doctors surveyed said the main reasons patients request euthanasia are to prevent "loss of dignity" and "further suffering." Study authors Dr. Henk Jochensen of the Lindeboom Institute and Dr. John Keown of Queen's College, Cambridge, conclude, "Dutch claims of effective regulation ring hollow. ... The reality is that a clear majority of cases of euthanasia, both with and without request, go unreported and unchecked."
Dr. Peggy Norris of the anti-euthanasia group Alert said, "We need to learn from the Dutch system that euthanasia cannot be controlled." But a spokesperson for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society countered, "We accept that there is a problem with the levels of reporting, but that is because at the moment voluntary euthanasia is decriminalized but not legal. The onus is on the practitioner to prove his innocence and that does stop doctors from reporting" (BBC News, 2/16).