Dutch expert: Children may be pressured by family members to die by euthanasia

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Professor Theo Boer

Professor Theo Boer

The Dutch News reported Friday that Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch euthanasia expert, is concerned that the Netherlands Paediatric Association (NVK) is extending euthanasia to children under the age of 12 and that children will be pressured by family members. According to the publication

Last month the paediatric association NVK called for the minimum age of 12 to be scrapped, arguing that some terminally ill children of 10 and 11 are capable of deciding that they want to die.

Boer explained

Around one in five patients who choose euthanasia in the Netherlands acts under pressure from family members.

He based the estimate on his experience as a member of a euthanasia review committee for nine years where he reviewed 4,000 euthanasia deaths. Boer told Dutch News

Sometimes it’s the family who go to the doctor. Other times it’s the patient saying they don’t want their family to suffer. And you hear anecdotally of families saying: “Mum, there’s always euthanasia.”

Since one in five patients who die by euthanasia are pressured by family members, therefore children who die by euthanasia are also likely to be pressured by family members.

Boer is also concerned by the overall growth of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

euthanasia and assisted suicide… has trebled from around 1,800 in the early years to 4,829 in 2013.

Although the vast majority of requests still come from terminally ill cancer patients, the parameters have gradually widened to take in growing numbers of people with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and psychiatric illness.

Boer is further concerned that euthanasia, which was considered a ‘last resort,’ is now considered a right. The Dutch News reported

‘The debate has changed. Euthanasia is no longer a last resort. It was originally seen as a law that gave doctors rights rather than patients. But we very frequently hear it discussed in terms of a patient’s right to euthanasia.’

Boer also argues that the reasons for euthanasia has changed.

He has been critical of phenomena such as ‘duo-euthanasia’, where the partner of a terminally ill patient asks to die with them because he or she believes they cannot face life alone.

Doctors are also feeling pressured by euthanasia. According to a study that was published by the Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) last December

70% of doctors had experienced pressure, while 64% felt it had increased in recent years. The survey did not ask where the pressure came from.

Boer believes that the Dutch euthanasia law should be tightened.

‘We made a number of serious mistakes when we drew up the law,’ says Boer. ‘The problem with being the first country is that you have no precedent. It’s good on some points, such as transparency and evaluation, but in general it’s nothing for us to be proud of. I worry that if death is seen too quickly as the solution, the value of life is reduced.’

Last November, Boer urged the Dutch government to reform the euthanasia law. He said that people who had months, even years to live were dying by euthanasia.

Editor’s note. This appeared at alexschadenberg.blogspot.com and is reprinted with permission.