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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Doctors Kill In 14% of Dutch Deaths



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I grow weary of the continual attempts to spin and cover up the depth of the death culture of the Netherlands. For example, recently, articles have celebrated the official 2.8% euthanasia rate. But that doesn't include assisted suicide (0.2) and the fact that 23% of euthanasia deaths are unreported. So, that brings the official count to about 3.5%. [See Update below. The 2.8% included unreported euthanasias, hence, the actual number is closer to 3%.  Readers should adjust their math accordingly.] In and of itself, that's huge. In the USA, it would amount to about 84,000 euthanasia/assisted suicides a year (3.5% of 2.4 million annual deaths)! But the doctor killing count in the Netherlands is actually far higher.  Terminal sedation is slow motion euthanasia. In TS, the patient is put into a coma and deprived of food and water until death. (This should be distinguished from palliative sedation, a legitimate pain control technique, as I write about here).  According to a Lancet report, 12.3% of Dutch deaths involved continual sedation:

In 2010, of all deaths in the Netherlands, 2·8% (95% CI 2·5–3·2; 475 of 6861) were the result of euthanasia...In 2010, 77% (3136 of 4050) of all cases of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide were reported to a review committee (80% [1933 of 2425] in 2005). Ending of life without an explicit patient request in 2010 occurred less often (0·2%; 95% CI 0·1–0·3; 13 of 6861)... Continuous deep sedation until death occurred more frequently in 2010 (12·3% [11·6–13·1; 789 of 6861])...Of all deaths in 2010, 0·4% (0·3–0·6; 18 of 6861) were the result of the patient’s decision to stop eating and drinking to end life; in half of these cases the patient had made a euthanasia request that was not granted.

My research indicates that about 2% of terminal cases require palliative sedation, which is not killing because it is done at the very end of life and death comes from the disease, not dehydration. Using that figure, about 10% of Dutch deaths were TS slow motion euthanasia. That raises the killing count to nearly 14%. Now, realize that roughly half of Dutch deaths do not involve end of life medical decision making (e.g. accidents, heart attack, etc.).  That makes the count--(very roughly)--25-28% of all deaths in which medical decisions were made about the end of life. (And we are not even discussing intentional morphine overdoses that previous studies show usually go unreported). Now, I think we are on much more realistic ground.  The 2.8% stat is clearly bogus.  The real number is at least 3.5%, but really closer to 14%.  If the USA legalized euthanasia and had a similar killing count, the total number of doctor-administered deaths would be over 300,000 annually! Update: Alex Schadenberg tells me the 2.8 percent included reported and unreported euthanasia deaths.  But he also tells me that the 2.8% is wrong.  I will link his take on that in a separate post.  In any event, my broader point remains the same. The overall kill rate is closer to 13-14% when you include slow motion euthanasia via terminal sedation.



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