– Maurizio Blondet
The Dutch parliament legalized euthanasia in 2002. More precisely (and hypocritically) they decriminalized “the interruption of life on demand,” avoiding the words “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide.” The fact remains forbidden in theory, but the doctor can practice it if he judges the patient subject “to intolerable suffering and without prospects.”
In 2007, medically assisted suicides numbered less than 2000. In 2017, there were 6,600, and at least an equal number of requests were refused. In the same year, 1,900 Dutchmen took their own lives and the number of those who died under palliative sedation (which means, realistically, dying of thirst while being rendered unconscious) reached the figure of 3,200. “Surprising” number, according to the Guardian investigation from which I have taken the data. “Together in the Netherlands, over a quarter of all deaths in 2017 were induced.”
A FOURTH OF DEATHS IN HOLLAND
Twenty-five percent. The number of candidates for death administered lethally has rapidly expanded from the cancerous terminal patients that would have died anyway due to their disease in a few days, to those suffering from muscular dystrophy, then to the sixty-year-olds who were made to sign a contract in which they ask to end the their lives if they fall into dementia or lose control over their dejections, they have arrived at the assisted suicide of young mental patients “convinced” by their parents to put an end to their suffering.
Some doctors resisted putting an end to the life of a depressed old woman, to discover that when she returned from vacation, the patient had been eliminated by a colleague. In another case, an elder signed a commitment to commit suicide if he lost his mind, then, as dementia advanced, he tried to withdraw his consent – but his wife wanted the doctor to do the same lethal injection-sedation.
Now a similar case has given rise to what is perhaps the first Dutch trial of a doctor for practice in assisted suicide: the victim, a 74-year-old who had given her “informed consent” before, but then repeatedly said that she did not she wanted to die, and was deemed incompetent to withdraw her consent because she had no reason … In fact, the doctor slipped a sleeping pill in her coffee; since the lady did not sleep, he injected her with other sleeping pills; she seemed to have finally fallen asleep, but when the doctor tried to inject the fatal poison, she stood up. At that point, “her husband and her adult son helped hold the patient so the doctor injected her the whole dose.” The prosecutor considered that with this help, “the measure was exceeded” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/09/doctor-to-face-dutch-prosecution-for-breach-of-euthanasia-law).
If the number of assisted suicides has decreased by 9% in 2018, the first time since 2006, it is not because the demand on the part of the population has diminished, but on the contrary: for the resistance of doctors increasingly uncomfortable in front of patients who consider them to be simple technicians of painless suicide, depriving them of the right to diagnose if this extreme “cure” is needed, or even to ask why the patient wants to end his life.
“For primary care physicians, addressing requests for euthanasia by resolute patients, who know their stuff, and who resent the slightest reluctance on the part of the doctor, has become one of the most unpleasant aspects of the profession.” As normal patients now require the doctor to sign the prescription drugs they have read on the internet, so in the Netherlands there is this macabre form of self-administration.
THE OFFER HAS CREATED THE NEED
Often the medical reviewers of the practice have found that depressed or elderly and lonely people exaggerate the symptoms of a physical illness to make themselves candidates for euthanasia. “The will to death precedes physical pathology, the real reason is deeper,” notes Theo Boer, but he is an ethical theologian – he has participated in various control commissions – not a doctor. However, Agnese van der Heide, a professor of palliative medicine at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam admits: “The requests for euthanasia that pose serious problems are those in which the patient proclaims his own autonomy, those who tell the doctor: you are not the only one who you can judge if I want to die.” And he concludes: “The offer created the demand.” It’s the market, guys.
The lethal version of the sixty-eight slogan “the body is mine and I manage it.” In fact, says Dr Agnes, the requests of this type grow among the 70 year olds, the baby-boomers born around 1945 who were at the forefront of struggles for sexual liberation, abortion, drugs. But once these are “settled,” don’t think – he says – that young people are less determined and assertive. “For young people, freedom and autonomy is the basis of their way of being.”
To meet this autonomy, two years ago the Minister of Health and the Justice Ministry proposed together, at the expense of the health service, the provision of a “pill of complete life” for which every seventy-year-old has the right to receive the lethal poison, cutting off doctors completely from the decision. The proposal is at a standstill for the time being, but the Dutch Society for Voluntary Euthanasia (NVVE) is working to get it approved, as it has mobilized so that the benefit of assisted suicide is extended to healthy young mental patients (I said that psychiatrists oppose). NVVE has 177,000 members, more than any political party in the Netherlands. “No doctor can decide for me when I can die,” said the president, Steven Pleiter, who is also the director of Levenseindekliniek, the clinic of the good death where they practice assisted euthanasia. The cost, 3,000 euros, is paid by the insurance companies. The observation that in this way, in the end, insurers save a lot of money by shortening the very expensive life of a serious patient, it is welcomed with disgust, says the Guardian journalist. “‘I deeply believe that there is no need to suffer,” Pleitner tells him. The journalist followed one of the NVV conferences and noted: the audience is 60-70 years old who conducted the permissive battles for which Holland is famous, from sex to drug freedom.”
The trivialization of suicide as a medical cure is in fact the extreme of all “conquests” demanded by this generation of baby boomers (which is mine) that has got rid of God and every thought of the beyond. If there was even the slightest doubt, the slightest hypothesis, on judgment and eternal life, this request to be killed would not be so stentorian. It is the first time that a humanity has appeared that has completely – and with “success” – rejected God from its own life. And now this generation that can want everything, wants to die, die out without leaving offspring. It will be objected that I only want to not suffer; but it is saying the same thing in other words.
Life “is” suffering, and the whole test of a humanly fulfilled life lies in accepting the inevitable suffering as an expiation, as intercession; make it fertile, make it meaningful. Now suffering has no meaning – because in the end, life has lost its meaning, even its joys and happiness. Lacking the “telos,” the purpose, existence is reduced to taking some pleasure, and after a while Eros, surrendering to Thanatos, believing in the Great Sleep. Tremendous misunderstanding, extreme failure: they had been warned of frost where there is nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth. They have – we have – chosen the outer darkness, they cannot complain.
(From the blog maurizioblondet.it. 2019©AP. Used with permission)
All quotes are translated from Italian and not reproduced from the original texts