Human Exceptionalism

Psychiatric Patients Euthanized in the Netherlands

Rick Santorum got into trouble a few months ago for making some pointed criticisms of euthanasia in the Netherlands. As I pointed out at the time, his details were somewhat off, but the substance of his critique was spot on. Simply stated, euthanasia has taken Dutch medical ethics off a vertical moral cliff, to the point that psychiatric patients are sometimes terminated by their doctors or psychiatrists.

Latest example: According to Dutch media, thirteen psychiatric patients were assisted in suicide last year. From the DutchNews story:

A total of 13 psychiatric patients were helped to end their life last year, compared with just two in 2010, according to new figures from the regional euthanasia monitoring groups. Euthanasia among people in the early stages of dementia also rose last year to 49 cases, double that of 2010. The figures are in line with a general upward trend. The total number of euthanasia cases rose 18% last year to 3,695 and the number of cases has doubled since 2006, the report said.

Don’t expect the media to care. When they reference Dutch euthanasia, readers/viewers are always assured that medicalized killing is tightly controlled under “strict conditions,” as the story quoted above does–even as it cites the euthanasias of psychiatric and dementia patients!

Belgium has also legalized euthanasia, and a medical journal reported one psychiatric patient (as well as several disabled patients) euthanized and then subjected to consensual organ harvesting. The Swiss allow suicide clinics and its Supreme Court established a right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

Here’s the moral of the story: Once a society agrees that some suicides are good, the categories of the killable never stops expanding.

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