Human Exceptionalism

Drive Starts to Make Dutch Psychiatrists Justify Not Killing Suicidal Patients!

I interviewed Dutch lawyer Eugene Sutorius in 1996 for my book Forced Exit.  I found him gracious, intelligent, and a quick legal mind.  I liked him a lot.  But he’s Darth Vader.

Sutorious is absolutely committed to using the law as dynamite to create the broadest possible euthanasia license in his country, and indeed, I interviewed him because he represented the psychiatrist who won a Dutch Supreme Court ruling that assisting the suicide of the depressed is in keeping with euthanasia law.  Since then, Dutch doctors have been allowed to kill their mentally ill patients, but according to Sutorious and others, not enough are being put into the grave.  It’s time for change!  From the story:

Of the 2,331 cases reviewed by the regional euthanasia review committees in 2008 only two involved psychiatric patients. All doctors are obligated to report assisted suicides to the committees, who then investigate if all the legal requirements were met. [Me: Studies show that about half are not reported.] “Psychiatrists have a holier-than-thou attitude,” Hans van Dam, a nurse and a teacher, said at a symposium organised by the Right to Die-NL foundation in the Dutch town of Ede on Monday. The taboo on assisted suicide for mental patients needs to be broken, Van Dam argued. “To put it bluntly: cancer will kill you in a matter of years, but schizophrenia is forever. The suffering of psychiatric patients can be just as intolerable as many forms of physical suffering,” said Eugène Sutorius, a professor of criminal law and a former president of the foundation.

At Monday’s symposium many attendees had horror stories about people who ended up killing themselves in the most atrocious ways after their treating psychiatrist refused to help them. “At some clinics they will say right away: we don’t do that here,” according to Van Houwelingen. And suicide attempts are not always successful, said Sutorius, “leaving people to go through life even more damaged than before. If euthanasia wasn’t such a delicate subject I would be tempted to bring it before the disciplinary tribunal,” added Sutorius. “Doctors have a duty to discuss this if patients have a death wish and there is no treatment available.”…

Sutorius is hoping for a change of culture at the psychiatric clinics will change. He suggest making it obligatory for psychiatrists to report and motivate why they declined a patient’s request for assisted suicide.”I don’t want to see psychiatrists dragged into court,” he said, “but I do want them to make their case.”

Get that?  Sutorious is considering bringing action to force psychiatrists to explain why they didn’t kill patients, not why they did.  That, in turn, would lead to policies that would eventually require psychiatrists to assist suicides. The Netherlands has fallen off a vertical moral cliff.

Anyone who believes that institutionalized medical killing can be kept under strict control is delusional.  Moreover, once the culture of death sinks deeply into the culture, eventually efforts will be made to force health care professionals to engage or be complicit in killing.  For more on this last point, see my most recent piece in First Things.

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