Sunday, May 30, 2010

Euthanasia doesn't assure choice

The [Montreal] Gazette | May 30, 2010
Letter to the Editor

Re: "Quebecers to be asked views on euthanasia, assisted suicide" (Gazette, May 26)

Dutch doctors have practised assisted suicide and euthanasia for decades. Although the law calls for performing assisted suicide and euthanasia with the patient's consent, it is often involuntary. The law also calls for obtaining a second opinion from another physician, but this is often not done.

The most recent year for which we have an official report from the Dutch government is 2005. Despite the fact the report was written to defend the practice, it concedes that 550 patients (an average of 1.5 per day) were actively killed by Dutch doctors "without an explicit request." The report also concedes that another 20 per cent of deaths were not reported to the authorities as required by Dutch law.

Patient death can save money for health care systems as well as for surviving family members. Once assisted suicide and euthanasia are accepted, abuses are possible and difficult to control. Those who believe that legal assisted suicide and euthanasia will assure their autonomy and choice are naïve.

To see the Dutch government report, go to, then click on Themes, then Euthanasia, and then scroll down to Evaluation.

William Reichel, MD
Centre for Clinical Bioethics
Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C.

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