Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Dutch death squads

By Paul Russell - posted Monday, 12 December 2011

Straight from the 'just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse' files come reports that the Dutch Health Minister admitted in their parliament recently that her department is 'considering' setting up mobile euthanasia death squads.

Minister Edith Schippers is quoted in the UK Telegraph as saying that mobile units "for patients who meet the criteria for euthanasia but whose doctors are unwilling to carry it out" was worthy of consideration.

Instantly, many will be reminded of the SS Einsatzgruppen death squads that moved through towns on the Eastern Front following the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. I hesitate to draw any further comparison with this dark and sinister period in European history, but this recent development is disturbing on a number of levels.


The suggestion that these mobile units would euthanase people where the local doctor was not willing to do the killing could constitute a serious breach of medical ethics. What if the doctor would not kill for sound medical reasons such as untreated depression or evidence of coercive pressure? Will his or her advice be sought and will his opinion and treatment plan prevail? It doesn't seem that likely.

Already we have seen Dutch patients with Alzheimer's being euthanased. But Dutch pro-euthanasia groups are known to want to expand the eligibility for euthanasia further; the UK Mail reporting the lobby's claim, 'that 80 per cent of people with dementia or mental illnesses were being 'missed' by the country's euthanasia laws.' Missed? Is there a door-to-door search? Quick, hide Grandma in the cupboard!

Would the patient's doctor even be told that the death squad was about to visit his patient? For the frail, elderly or those with depression or mental illness, the doctor may well also be the patient's only advocate. Doctor shopping for a preferred diagnosis is one thing, but this is death as a door-to-door salesman!

A salesman it is. In Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal, advocates like the euphemistically titled 'Compassion and Choices' provide advice to those seeking death in how to approach their doctor and what to do if he or she tries to talk the patient out of it or tries to defer the conversation. Their advice suggests that any answer other than supporting the provision of assisted suicide under their Dignity With Dying Act is unacceptable. But again, is it not a legitimate role of the doctor to avoid a direct answer on such a question with the aim of taking the time to conduct a proper medical and mental health assessment and the best outcome for the patient?

Of course, if you don't get what you want, there's always help at the other end of the phone: " Compassion & Choices of Washington (C&C) and request a Client Support Volunteer who can help you achieve a peaceful, humane death." One can easily imagine a similar line being adopted in Holland: "Your doctor said no. How terrible! Here, call the mobile hotline now!

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

21 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Paul Russell is the Director of HOPE: preventing euthanasia & assisted suicide

Paul is also Vice Chair of the International Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Paul Russell

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Paul Russell
Article Tools
Comment 21 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy