Dutch: Beginning of a Nightmare?

The Hague, Netherlands -- Yesterday, April 9, the Upper House of the Dutch Parliament started the final debate on the Euthanasia Law, which will make it legal to kill patients with their consent under certain conditions. The Lower House of Parliament already agreed on the new law at the end of last year. Cry for Life presented a second batch of 15.000 signatures to members of Parliament before the debate. Earlier, 25.000 signatures had already been given.

During the first round of the debate on Monday evening, different parties criticised the procedure through which doctors have to notify the authorities of the committed euthanasia. The Christian Party Christenunie voiced repeated concern about the fact that there is a duty to report euthanasia after it has been committed instead of before. The main opposition party, the Christian Democrat CDA, questioned the willingness of doctors to report euthanasia, even now the reporting committees are already operating separately from the office of the Public Prosecutor. In the present -already liberal law- in working during the last two years, the committees (in which doctors have a large say) practically judged over the reported euthanasia. Only in 'questionable cases' the Prosecutor received the advice to prosecute. In 1999 (latest data) only 2216 cases of euthanasia were reported to the committees. Of these cases only a very small number was questionable.

The problem with the way of voluntary reporting is that the numbers 'below the line' are not clear. What the total number of cases of practised euthanasia is, is not known. During all recent research, it became clear that 60% of all cases are NOT reported. By taking euthanasia from the Penal Code, the government hopes to place doctors in 'a judicial safer environment' so that their willingness to report will increase.

However, the present law, which relaxed the rules already, did not have that effect. Even the speaker from the ruling coalition party, the social democratic PVDA (a supporter of the new law) concluded during the debate that the number of reports has not increased, but decreased by 20% in two years. The party stressed the need to control what is happening and criticised the government of not taking enough action on this point. Even the documents of the reported cases are, contrary to habit, destroyed and not kept for statistic or scientific research. The conclusion of the government that the lower willingness to report was caused by 'start up problems' of the new procedure, was questioned by the social democrats as well.

Christenunie voiced clear concern about the introduction of euthanasia, with all negative ethical consequences, into the normal medical practice. 'What is now seen by many as a good, final solution (to the judicial and ethical matters around euthanasia), could well prove to be the beginning of a nightmare.

The debate continues this morning. We hope to keep you informed during this day and tomorrow. This afternoon at 15.00 hrs (local time), there will be a large 'quiet protest', organised by numerous churches and organisations to protest against the new law.

Source: "Cry for Life" organization; April 10, 2001

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