Chapter XIX: Crypthanasia

Article excerpt

I use the term crypthanasia (from Greek kryptos, secret, hidden, and Thanatos, The Death) to denote covert medical killings of unsuspecting patients. (164)

Excerpts From Dutch Publications on Crypthanasia. The reality of crypthanasia is illustrated by the following.

* "'Mother is bedridden, has to be helped with everything, she is unclean, does not recognize people any more.' ... The small group enters the patient's room. The physician administers the lethal injection." Jan Hendrik van den Berg, Medical Power and Medical Ethics, 1969. (165)

* "I think that when a human being ... gets into such condition that he no more can live in real social communication with others, (his) remaining life ... can no more claim a right to be protected ... In this respect there is no reason to make a distinction between the demented elderly, ... the victims of road accidents, ... and children with Thalidomide-induced limb malformations." J. Ekelmans, The Mature Mortal, 1971. (166)

* "Involuntary active euthanasia.... It is a public secret that this form of euthanasia does occur.... [W]e should summon up enough courage to look closely at (it), and try to show understanding." Sometimes Death Comes Too Late: A Pamphlet of the Foundation for Voluntary Euthanasia, 1975. (167)

* "[In] those smarting cases in which one can suppose that were the patient able to express his will he would choose euthanasia, ... rights of decisions must be adjudged to other persons." The Board of the Royal Dutch Society of Medicine, Answer to the Questions of the State Committee on Euthanasia, 1984. (167)

* "This patient ... never said 'put an end to it,' only 'relieve my pain.' ... We tried everything .... And he simply did not die, whatever we did. Finally a huge dose of potassium was injected, he lapsed into a cardiac arrest and that was the end of him." Internist interviewed by Henri W. H. Hilhorst, Euthanasia in the Hospital, 1983. (169)

* "I had a young patient who terribly clung to life.... He didn't even want to discuss his own bad situation. He had the kind of lung cancer that is inoperable, when it is diagnosed it already had spread. Chemotherapy gives fair results, so it also was with this patient.... And then suddenly I said: now it becomes too crazy, I cannot go on like that.... Now give me active euthanasia! I gave him an I.V. with such drugs that he died." Chest physician interviewed by Hilhorst, 1983. (170)

* "How euthanasia used to be carried out? Stealthily, in deep secret, but always out of love to mankind." Physician interviewed by Hilhorst, 1983. (171)

* "I do recognize the difference between termination of life upon request and without request of the patient. But from the point of view of a doctor, from moral point of view, these are two actions of almost the same kind." Dutch Secretary of Health, Mr. H. J. Simons, 1993. (172)

The Public Awareness of Crypthanasia. For years crypthanasia remained a public secret, just as the pamphlet Euthanasia asserted. Almost everybody knew this was happening, but there was no proof, no established facts, very little in writing.

In 1972, Holland's largest illustrated weekly published the statement of Dr. Karel E Gunning who had returned from North Africa and was indignant about practices he had encountered in some Dutch hospitals: when the general practitioners phoned specialists in the evening, asking them to admit seriously ill older patients, sometimes they were advised not to send the patients in, but to kill them with an intravenous injection. (173)

Then in 1983, the sociologist Henri W. H. Hilhorst published the book Euthanasia in the Hospital, (174) based on his study, sponsored by the Royal Dutch Academy of Science and the University of Utrecht, and conducted in eight hospitals. He found not only voluntary euthanasia, but also secret involuntary euthanasia of children and adults practiced in these situations. …