Dutch doctors oppose euthanasia for dementia

In the Netherlands at least 350 doctors have already signed a petition refusing euthanasia for persons with advanced dementia.  

The petition reads as follows: “Give mortal injections to patients with advanced dementia solely based on advance declarations? To individuals who cannot confirm whether or not they want to die? No, we do refuse. Our moral reluctance to end the life of a defenseless human being is too strong.”

In 2002, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia. The country’s law authorizes ending lives of individuals with dementia as long as the patients fulfill two conditions: establish a written advance directive prior to dementia but he still had to express the desire for death himself. But this is no longer required. In December 2015, the Dutch government relaxed the conditions with a joint statement from the Ministers of Public Health and Security and Justice changed the euthanasia guideline to state that “these patients can be helped to die, even if they are no longer capable of expressing their will” if they made a written declaration with this wish while they were still lucid.

In 2015 euthanasia accounted for 5516 deaths in the Netherlands almost 4% of all deaths nationwide, including 109 dementia cases. Dementia, being considered as “unbearable psychological suffering” with no prospect of improvement, can be included within the context of the law.

Borderline cases are currently on the rise. Among others, in May 2016 a young lady was allowed to choose euthanasia after suffering repeated sexual abuse. In July 2016 a 41-year old man with alcoholism requested euthanasia and in another case a woman underwent euthanasia against her will.

The Dutch government recently introduced a draft law to authorize assisted suicide for elderly people, even for those who are perfectly healthy. People requesting euthanasia can invoke the “sense of having lived a full or complete life” or because they are tired of living.

Heading to an ethical awakening for doctors?

This petition marks the first time that part of the medical community has taken a stand to limit the euthanasia boundaries in the Netherlands. These doctors hope their action will restart a nationwide discussion on the subject.


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