Dutch Doctors Group Changes Stance on Euthanasia
Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
The Royal Dutch Medical Association now says it would be better for mercy-killing candidates to end their own lives instead of depending on a doctor to do it for them.
The policy revision published Friday could redefine the practice of mercy killing in the Netherlands, which has the industrialized world's most liberal policies on this matter.
The change has no binding force over doctors, but the group's guidelines form the framework of government policy. The policy shift supported by the medical association is a tacit recognition that euthanasia is still a problematic issue for doctors whose first responsibility is to heal.
Roelof Mulder, a spokesman for the association, said, "The responsibility for requesting euthanasia lies with the patients, and they should be held responsible for carrying out the practice as much as possible, if they are physically capable."
But if patients are too ill to do so, physicians should step in and carry out the death, Mulder added.
Euthanasia in the Netherlands generally involves doctors giving patients lethal injections. The new guidelines favor physician-assisted suicides, where the patients carry out the act themselves, most often by overdosing on drugs provided by their doctors.
Mulder said the new emphasis on patient responsibility was meant to alleviate the emotional stress doctors experience in performing mercy killing. Mulder said: "Euthanasia is not something a doctor does with joy. It's always a severe process."
The medical association also denied that the new policy aimed to restrict or expand euthanasia.
Rob Dillmann, another association spokesman, said: "These are improvements. They were not written with the intention to create more or less euthanasia cases. …