Death and Medical Power: An Ethical Analysis of Dutch Euthanasia Practice

By Henk A. M. J. Ten Have; Jos V. M. Welie | Go to book overview

1
Euthanasia and medical power

The Postma case

There was no alternative. Five months earlier she had suffered a stroke. Although the treatment in the Assen hospital had resulted in a gradual improvement of her condition, she continued to suffer from partial paralysis and problems with her speech. Mrs van Boven-Grevelink could not return home. She needed permanent care. So she was transferred to a Catholic nursing clinic in Oosterwolde, a small village in the northern Dutch province of Friesland.

Unfortunately the transfer turned out to have a detrimental effect on her condition. One of her two daughters, visiting her on the first day, was shocked to see her mother in a confused and absent-minded state, unable to communicate. Mrs van Boven's condition continued to fluctuate during the ensuing days. She remained wheelchair-bound, had difficulties in hearing and talking, and could not move her left arm. She had lost interest in the people around her, her family and grandchildren. Often she recognized her daughters, mentioned their names, and repeated that she wanted them to leave. At times, she even told them that she no longer wanted to see them.

One day in October, her daughters found her tied up in bed with the bed rails raised. She was pale and her face covered with bandages. It turned out that she had fallen out of bed. A few days later, she explained that she had thrown herself out of the bed deliberately in a primitive attempt to kill herself. She repeatedly told her daughters that she did not want to be in this situation, that she wanted 'something to die'.

Approximately one month after her transfer to Oosterwolde, the nursing clinic physician was informed by the head nurse that Mrs van Boven was dying. This deterioration in her condition was unusually sudden, for only

-5-

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