Lessons to be learned
In 1952, the judges of the District Court of Utrecht issued a guilty verdict. It limited the imposed penalty to a probationary sentence of one year's imprisonment, but only because this was the first euthanasia case in the Netherlands. Half a century later, there appears to be a cultural bias in favour of euthanasia. Renowned columnist Karin Spaink has published a paperback about her quest to find drugs to end her life. Her conclusion: death is never sweet but suicide can be courageous.207 Dr Borst, the Minister of Healthcare under whose tenure euthanasia was legalized, considered it a major victory. Admitting it is not something to be celebrated, she nevertheless concluded: 'It's fabulous that we have achieved this.'208 Referring to the 20,000 protesters assembled around the parliamentary building at the time of the debate in the Senate, she commented: 'People with such opinions I have unfortunately lost all contact with.'209
This bias in favour of euthanasia has frustrated a critical analysis of euthanasia practice. Criticism is rarely taken seriously. Griffiths and colleagues dismiss the studies by Gomez and Hendin as unreliable and give as one of the prime reasons that they were done by non-Dutchmen.210 Clinical alternatives advocated abroad such as forgoing treatment and providing adequate palliative care are rejected as 'sanctimonious', a form of 'soothing one's conscience'.211 Jonquie`re is convinced that knowledge about the Dutch practice of euthanasia is hard to find abroad.212 Rather than the Dutch, it is the foreigners who are wrong. Former Prime Minister Kok ordered the Dutch embassies to start a PR campaign to rectify the misperceptions abroad.213 Even the concerns about the Dutch approach to euthanasia expressed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in
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Publication information: Book title: Death and Medical Power: An Ethical Analysis of Dutch Euthanasia Practice. Contributors: Henk A. M. J. Ten Have - Author, Jos V. M. Welie - Author. Publisher: Open University Press. Place of publication: Maidenhead, England. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 169.
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