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

Mercy killing in the Netherlands or eugenics?

By Michael Cook - posted Thursday, 13 January 2005

From the Netherlands, comes involuntary euthanasia for kids!

Paediatricians have asked the Dutch Government to approve protocols for the euthanasia of newborns - after admitting that this had already happened four times in the past year.

The leading figure in the push for "mercy killing" for children, Dr Eduard Verhagen, of Groningen Academic Hospital, explains that the number affected by the measure would be no more than about a dozen each year. The babies he has in mind suffer "agonising pain". Verhagen’s press release failed to mention that the "Groningen protocols" apparently allow doctors to kill children up to the age of 12.


In a separate development, the Dutch doctors’ association, the KNMG, wants to extend eligibility for euthanasia to adults who are sick and tired of living and not just sick. It acted after the Dutch Supreme court upheld the conviction of a doctor for illegal euthanasia. Dr Philip Sutorius had killed an 86-year-old former senator, Edward Brongersma, who was tired of living.

Brongersma had reason to be: he was an outspoken advocate of paedophilia and author of a two-volume study called Loving Boys. After spending time in jail for child sex, he became chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Dutch Senate from 1969 to 1977 and helped to push through repeal of the laws under which he had been convicted.

Dr Jos Dijkhuis, the author of the KNMG’s report on extending euthanasia, argues that "suffering is too often linked to illness" and that a person who simply cannot bear to live any longer and whose outlook on the future is hopeless is "suffering from life". At this rate, you’ll be able to get euthanasia for in-grown toenails. Like all good medicine, it’s cost-effective, the ailment disappears and patients never complain.

The Dutch medical profession is suffering from terminal navel-gazing. So how do other countries view Holland's accelerating ride down the slippery slope?

Consider, for instance, what the United States will think. The Dutch have effectively legalised the death penalty for people whose crime is simply to be young and sick or old and depressed. Meanwhile they have been wagging its finger at the US about the immorality of state executions. Under the presidency of the Netherlands, the European Commission chided the US for refusing to sign an international agreement banning the execution of people with mental disorders. "The execution of persons suffering from mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and standards,” it said. “In cases where the death penalty is carried out, any miscarriage of justice, which is occasionally inevitable in any legal system, would be irreversible."

Euthanasia is also irreversible, but it happens every day in Dutch nursing homes. In 2003 there were 1,815 reported cases of euthanasia, a figure, which everyone agrees, is greatly understated. The US, for all its faults, at least knows how many people are executed every year. In the Netherlands, reliable statistics are unavailable for matters as basic as numbers those killed and their ages.


Consider, too, what Dutch Muslims will think - especially after the brutal murder of a Dutch film-maker for insulting Islam. "Euthanasia violates the purpose of preserving religion, hifdh ad-din, because it involves a human attempt to violate the divine prerogative of giving and taking away life," according to the "fatwa bank" of IslamOnline. If many Christians are incensed by euthanasia, what will Muslim extremists think? Will it increase their esteem for Dutch culture to know that the test case for the introduction of voluntary euthanasia without illness centred on a world-renowned paedophile? Will they admire a relaxed, tolerant, freedom-loving culture which allows involuntary euthanasia of children under 12?

Why the Netherlands has become the epicentre of world euthanasia baffles scholars. But surely one reason is the arrogant presumption that doctors are rational, well-balanced and compassionate - ideally suited to be judge, jury and executioner.

However, doctors may actually be less healthy psychologically than the rest of the population, not more. This year’s review of emotional health by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners found that depression, burn-out and psychiatric illness are very common among doctors, but few seek professional assistance. They are twice as likely to commit suicide. Female doctors are six times more likely. One study has suggested that doctors were more afraid of death than seriously ill patients. Psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate of all specialties.

Giving stressed, depressed and burnt-out Dutch doctors the authority to kill their patients, turning a blind eye when they kill without permission, and changing the law when they flout is leading to abuses on a colossal scale.

The Dutch government and medical profession have no intention of stopping their country's slide into abuses of the most fundamental of all human rights. It is hypocritical for the Netherlands to demand that countries like Turkey scrub up their record on human rights before applying for membership in the European Union. What Australia and the rest of the international community must do is apply pressure on the Netherlands to halt its slide down the slippery slope.

  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.

3 posts so far.

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

About the Author

Michael Cook edits the Internet magazine MercatorNet and the bioethics newsletter BioEdge.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Michael Cook
Related Links
Pontifical Academy for Life
Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy