Euthanasia Spreads in Europe
Several nations find themselves far down the slippery slope.


Wesley J. Smith

For example, the Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) wants to loosen the definition of “unbearable suffering” for euthanasia qualification to include non-medical issues. From a Radio Netherlands Worldwide report:

Until now, factors such as income or a patient’s social life played almost no role when physicians were considering a euthanasia request. However, the new guidelines will certainly change that. After almost a year of discussions, the KNMG has published a paper which says a combination of social factors and diseases and ailments that are not terminal may also qualify as unbearable and lasting suffering under the Euthanasia Act.

These social factors include matters such as “loneliness,” strained “financial resources,” and a “loss of social skills.”

Dutch doctors have now been told they may ethically supply “how to commit suicide” instructional materials to their patients who don’t qualify legally for euthanasia. The practice, known as “autoeuthanasia,” was blessed by the KNMG in an ethical position paper. From “The Role of the Physician in the Voluntary Termination of Life”:

There is no punishment for physicians and other persons if they provide information about suicide. Physicians are also legally permitted to refer patients to information that is available on the Internet or to publications sold by book vendors, or provide these on loan, and to discuss this information with patients.

But what about Dutch doctors who are morally opposed to euthanasia? As the old saying goes, tough toenails. The KNMG has decreed that dissenting doctors do not have a right to refuse participation in euthanasia on the basis of conscience. From the same KNMG position paper:

If a physician cannot or does not wish to honour a patient’s request for euthanasia or assisted suicide he must give the patient a timely and clear explanation of why, and furthermore must then refer or transfer the patient to another physician in good time.

If the Dutch parliament passes a law consistent with the KNMG’s ethical opinion, it will mean every physician in the Netherlands would be forced to be complicit in euthanasia — even if they are pro-life or believe in the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition against physician-assisted suicide — by finding a doctor willing to kill their euthanasia-qualified patients. Either that, or quit the practice of medicine.

Matters are even worse in Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2002. Where the Dutch slid slowly down the slippery slope over decades, Belgium has leaped off the moral cliff head-first. Consider that Belgian doctors have coupled euthanasia with organ harvesting. The first reported case of organ harvesting following voluntary euthanasia was reported in 2008. It involved a completely paralyzed woman who first requested euthanasia, and when told she would be killed, asked to donate her organs after she was dead. In a blatant example of ethical bootstrapping, doctors who participated in the case validated their own good conduct in a 2008 letter in the medical journal Transplant International :

This case of two separate requests, first euthanasia and second, organ donation after death, demonstrates that organ harvesting after euthanasia may be considered and accepted from ethical, legal, and practical viewpoints in countries where euthanasia is legally accepted.

In the years since, Belgian doctors have expanded the kill-and-harvest agenda, even promoting it at medical symposia. For example, one group of advocates created a PowerPoint presentation, arguing that unlike, say, cancer patients, euthanizing people with serious neuromuscular diseases who want to die and donate should be accepted because such patients have “high quality” organs.