Sunday, September 05, 2010

'Death with dignity' means euthanasia

Boston.com Globe South Letter to the Editor from subject matter expert Dr. William Reichel

September 2, 2010

I am a physician who has studied assisted-suicide and euthanasia since 1988, especially in the Netherlands. I was disturbed to see the article arguing for a death with dignity law in Massachusetts. ("Arguing for control of her death,'' Aug. 22.)

"Death with dignity'' is a euphemism for assisted-suicide and euthanasia. The article implies that such practices will assure patient "control'' and "choice,'' which is not the case.

In the Netherlands, Dutch law calls for providing assisted-suicide and euthanasia with the patient's consent. This is not, however, always done. Indeed, over time, assisted-suicide on a strictly voluntary basis evolved into allowing euthanasia on an involuntary basis. Euthanasia is also performed on infants and children, who are not capable of giving consent.

2005 is the most recent year for which we have an official report from the Dutch government. The report is "spun'' to defend the Dutch law, but nonetheless concedes that 550 patients (an average of 1.5 per day) were actively killed by doctors "without an explicit request.'' The report also concedes that an additional 20 percent of deaths were not reported to the authorities as required by that law.

"Arguing for control of her death'' also mentions Compassion & Choices, a successor organization to the Hemlock Society. Compassion & Choices holds out the carrot of "choice'' to induce the public into believing that assisted-suicide and euthanasia are somehow benign. Those who believe that these practices will assure their "choice'' are naive.

William Reichel
Timonium, MD

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