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

6
Lessons to be learned

Introduction

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

Table of contents

  • Facing Death ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor's Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Euthanasia and Medical Power 5
  • 2: The Growth of Medical Power 22
  • 3: The Medical Practice of Euthanasia 57
  • 4: The Response of the Law 91
  • 5: Justifying the Practice of Euthanasia 133
  • 6: Lessons to Be Learned 169
  • Appendix I: Digest of Dutch Jurisprudence 187
  • Appendix II: 2001 Law on Euthanasia and Pas 211
  • Notes 220
  • References 227
  • Index 235
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