The Netherlands’ free fall down the slippery slop

From: IAETF Update November-December 1994 (Page 8)

Dutch TV airs a real euthanasia death

On 10/20/94, Dutch television aired an unprecedented film showing a general practitioner actually performing euthanasia on a man with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The documentary film, “Death on Request,” tracks Dr. Wilfred van Oijen, his 63 year-old patient, Cornelis van Wendel de Joode (referred to as Cees), and Cees’s wife, Antoinette, from December 1993 until Cees’ 3/3/94 induced death. [Reuters wire service, 10/20/94; New York Times, 10/22/94:5]

According to an English transcript of the hour-long film, when Dr. van Oijen followed Dutch euthanasia guidelines by calling in a second doctor (unidentified) to meet with Cees, the following exchange took place:

Second doctor: “Perhaps you’d like to know why I am here. It’s necessary if we are to carry out euthanasia legally you have to satisfy a number of conditions. Those are: hopeless suffering with no prospect of a cure; and repeated requests for euthanasia, when you feel further life is unacceptable. In your case most of these conditions apply. You have an incurable disease which will soon end in death and unless there is some intervention you will experience terrible suffering. You’ll probably suffocate.”

Cees (using a letter board): “Yes.” (he laughs sardonically)

Antoinette (Cees’ wife): “Passed the test. Yes, he has passed the test.”

Second doctor: “Yes, he has passed the test….”

[New York Times, 11/13/94:7]

In a recent letter to the IAETF, Dutch physician Karel Gunning, secretary of the Rotterdam Palliative Care Association, wrote concerning the fact that, with proper care, Cees would not have experienced terrible suffering or inevitable suffocation, as the second doctor so brutally predicted:

“The patient [Cees] feared to die by suffocation. Dr. Dame Cicely Saunders, one of the pioneers of palliative care and founder of St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, has written to the Canadian Senate, where the similar case of Sue Rodriguez was being debated, that she (Dr. Saunders) had treated 300 of these cases and that none had died by suffocation. So the patient’s fear was not founded, though most people, including doctors, firmly believe it was.”

“Death on Request” was aired by IKON, a religious Dutch broadcasting company. Excerpts from the film, including the actual death scene, were shown in the U.S. on the 12/8/94 edition of ABC’s “Primetime Live.” Broadcasters from Canada, Australia, France, and Germany have expressed interest in buying the film. [British Medical Journal, 10/29/94:1107] Currently, efforts are underway to block its airing in Australia. [Australian AP wire service, 11/24/94]

Health Ministry threatens doctors who do not refer for euthanasia

The Dutch Health Ministry is calling for the revocation of physicians’ licenses if they refuse to refer patients to doctors willing to perform euthanasia. Chief Medical Officer J. Verhoef publicly stated on the 9/5/94 TV show, “Nova,” that if a non-euthanising doctor refuses to send a patient to a euthanising doctor, the case should be submitted to the Medical Disciplinary Board. The non-euthanising doctor should then be prohibited from practicing medicine. [Nederlands Dagblad, 9/8/94]

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