Several days ago, we posted sections of an article, “Legalizing euthanasia or Assisted Suicide: the Illusion of Safeguards and Controls” from the most recent issue of the journal Current Oncology. We promised more quotes but also stated that we would use only the portions of the article referring to assisted suicide, because the proponents of assisted suicide in Vermont insist that they are opposed to euthanasia. The recent appearance of an article in which the brother of a man euthanized by Jack Kevorkian voices his support of assisted suicide in Vermont has made us change our mind. The man doesn’t seem to see any difference in Jack Kevorkian’s “service” (the article’s actual words!) to his brother and a doctor’s writing a lethal overdose and giving his patient instructions for using it to commit suicide.
The man, a Vermont resident, says he has offered to testify in favor of Vermont’s bill but that no one has taken him up on the offer. No wonder! The proponents of assisted suicide try to insist that there is a clear line between it and euthanasia, despite evidence like that we posted yesterday, that this is not the case. They want to draw the line because the slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia is well documented in countries with legal euthanasia. In italics below is the relevant section from the article Read it at http://www.current-oncology.com/index.php/oncology/article/view/883/618.
In all jurisdictions, the request for euthanasia or pas has to be voluntary, well-considered, informed, and persistent over time. The requesting person must provide explicit written consent and must be competent at the time the request is made. Despite those safeguards, more than 500 people in the Netherlands are euthanized involuntarily every year. In 2005, a total of 2410 deaths by euthanasia or pas were reported, representing 1.7% of all deaths in the Netherlands. More than 560 people (0.4% of all deaths) were administered lethal substances without having given explicit consent. For every 5 people euthanized, 1 is euthanized without having given explicit consent. Attempts at bringing those cases to trial have failed, providing evidence that the judicial system has become more tolerant over time of such transgressions. In Belgium, the rate of involuntary and nonvoluntary euthanasia deaths (that is, without explicit consent) is 3 times higher than it is in the Netherlands. (“Involuntary euthanasia” refers to a situation in which a person possesses the capacity but has not provided consent, and “non-voluntary euthanasia,” to a situation in which a person is unable to provide consent for reasons such as severe dementia or coma). A recent study found that in the Flemish part of Belgium, 66 of 208 cases of “euthanasia” (32%) occurred in the absence of request or consent. The reasons for not discussing the decision to end the person’s life and not obtaining consent were that patients were comatose (70% of cases) or had dementia (21% of cases). In 17% of cases, the physicians proceeded without consent because they felt that euthanasia was “clearly in the patient’s best interest” and, in 8% of cases, that discussing it with the patient would have been harmful to that patient. Those findings accord with the results of a previous study in which 25 of 1644 non-sudden deaths had been the result of euthanasia without explicit consent.