Euthanasia . . . or a 'Dutch Treat'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Euthanasia . . . or a 'Dutch Treat'


Byline: Bob Barr, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

One Halloween, when I was probably about 8, my older sister and I were festooned in "Dutch" garb by my Mom. We wore cute little wooden Dutch shoes and what we took to be "Dutch" clothes, much as we imagine Hans Brinker and sister would wear. "Aren't they cute," were comments I recall.

Not nowadays. Dressing up in "Dutch" regalia would entail dressing like the Grim Reaper. The Netherlands, once the Land of Tulips and Windmills, is now known worldwide not for flowers and irrigation ingenuity, but for death and abortion. Were he attempting to escape allied justice today, Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Nazi "Angel of Death," would not have make his way to the jungles of Brazil; the Netherlands would probably welcome him with open arms. It's the new "Dutch Treat."

Several years ago, the Netherlands placed itself with pride at the cutting edge of modern decadence by enacting the world's most liberal assisted-suicide laws. The country' powerful medical community now has taken a quantum leap toward a society that values death over life, in proposed new legal guidelines that would turn that country's assisted-suicide law into a mandate for medical homicide.

Currently, Dutch law permits doctors to administer a lethal dose of muscle relaxants and sedatives to terminally ill patients, at their request. The Groningen Protocol, as it is known, would permit doctors to euthanize patients who, according to the opinion of these "doctors" and other medical "experts," lack "free will." This category of unfortunate individuals would include newborn babies, persons in irreversible comas and persons with severe mental retardation.

Worse, the Groningen hospital, after which the protocol is named, has already begun to administer the procedure, even without formal legal sanction. To date, Dutch prosecutors have refused to step in. Hey, if we can get rid of society's "deadwood," why let niceties of law or morality get in the way?

Regardless of how one feels about euthanasia of the willing, I would hope most people agree ending someone's life without consent puts us at the top of a deeply disturbing, indeed frightening, slippery slope.

When the person to be euthanized gives his or her consent, the line of contention rests between the innate value of human life (and the chance that consent will not be informed) and what control an individual should have over his or her ultimate fate. That, in my estimation, is a legitimately contested debate.

Groningen's guidelines, however, involve the actual medical homicide of individuals who can't protest or defend themselves. I have no doubt that if the Groningen Protocol becomes official, parents who don't want to contend with raising a disabled child will have their baby or young child euthanized, even if the baby has a fighting chance at a meaningful life. Likewise, family members who fear the burden of coping with a disabled or comatose loved one will seek his or her involuntary euthanasia out of their own self-interest.

Medical ethics has to be one of the most maddeningly complex fields of endeavor on the planet. The mental agility needed to contend with some of these issues is considerable. There is, however, one basic starting point for any ethical inquiry in medicine; one which, though not actually in the Hippocratic Oath, encapsulates its message. …

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