27% of Dutch physicians would considering “assisting” someone ‘tired of living’ to die

By Dave Andrusko

NewsweekcoverdeathreDepending on which question you focus on, the response from physicians to researchers in the Netherlands ran the gamut from terrible to horrible.

More than 1,400 Dutch physicians responded to a survey about what circumstances they would consider performing what they called euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS). The survey was published this week in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The headline to Newsweek’s story is pretty close to spot-on: “Many Dutch Doctors OK With Euthanasia for Nonphysical Suffering.”

The lead researcher was Eva Bolt of the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

According to Newsweek’s Max Kutner, Bolt said

that previous studies posed scenarios to physicians and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the actions of the hypothetical physicians. “Now I’m really asking what would you do.”

And what they would do is dreadful. Here are some of the results of a 2011-2012 survey of randomly selected general practitioners and specialists in elderly care, cardiology, respiratory medicine, intensive care, neurology and internal medicine.

#1.“ Most (86%) respondents said they would consider helping a patient to die; just 14% said they would not,” EurekAlert reported. “Among the 60% of respondents who had actually helped a patient to die, almost half (28%) had done so within the past 12 months.

#2. 85% would “consider EAS for patients with cancer and 82 percent for another physical disease,” Kutner writes. And “34 percent said they would do so for someone suffering from a psychiatric disease.” It gets worse.

#3. How about those who say they are “tired of living”? They had two answers. If you were “tired of living, with medical grounds for suffering but in the absence of a severe physical or psychiatric disease,” 27% would consider EAS.

But 18% “would do so for someone ‘tired of living’ who has no medical grounds for suffering”!

#4. What about patients with dementia? “40 percent of physicians said they would consider EAS for a competent person with early-stage dementia; 33 percent would consider it for someone with advanced dementia and a previously written directive,” Kutner reports.

The survey results come less than two weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the nation’s law against assisted suicide and pro-death organizations press for change in Europe and elsewhere. Given what’s happened, particularly, in Belgium and the Netherlands, opponents are not surprised by the results.

“The European models are wide open, and they’ve increased over time, and the supervision is ludicrous,” Stephen Drake, research analyst for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet and a critic of assisted suicide, told Kutner. Drake added

that “aid in dying” groups in the U.S. will likely look to European models for inspiration and seek fewer restrictions on what types of patients are eligible. “Don’t think for a minute that the groups here really want just [legalized physician-assisted dying] and nothing more,” he says, referring to recent court decisions and legislation in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico.