It is rare when the government has to push Netherlander doctors to be more aggressive with euthanasia. But that is what is happening around the killing of Alzheimer’s patients based on an advance directive. From the British Medical Journal story:
Senior figures in Dutch medicine and politics are set to decide whether advanced euthanasia directives can, in practice, replace verbal requests if patients with dementia are no longer able to express their wishes. Doctors in the Netherlands have expressed “difficulties” with this “grey area,” arguing that some communication is essential if they are to understand properly their patients’ suffering and wishes.
But eminent figures in medical ethics argue that doctors are placing themselves above the 2002 euthanasia law. This law states that doctors can act on an earlier advanced directive once a patient becomes incompetent. A public debate has raged on this subject since the Dutch Medical Association, in its response to the government’s latest research assessing euthanasia policy, proposed adapting the law. It suggested that the legally required second medical opinion must not only see but also communicate with the patient.
Former health minister Els Borst, who piloted the euthanasia law through parliament, has since argued: “A professional body cannot choose its own interpretation of the law.”
But it seems to me the doctors are the ones following the law. What if the patient no longer wants to die? What if the patient isn’t really suffering? The law says killing can be done only when that is required to end suffering. But the government leaders are essentially saying, “What does that matter? The advance directive is what counts!”
The bottom line here is that once a society broadly accepts the poison of euthanasia, the killable categories never stop expanding. Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?