One inherent consequence that so-called “Death with Dignity” advocates seem to ignore is the possibility that doctors and family members will pressure people into euthanasia or assisted suicide for convenience. A case in the Netherlands takes that one step further, as an elderly woman was euthanized against her will by family members eager to move on with their lives.
According to LiveAction, the 74-year-old unidentified woman had been suffering dementia for some time and previously told people she would undergo assisted suicide if “the time was right.” As her dementia progressed, she never put in a request to die and had surpassed the point of giving her full consent. It was then that her doctor declared her to be “suffering intolerably” and proceeded to euthanize her. Here’s how the ordeal went down:
When the doctor came in to euthanize her, the patient was not informed of what was going to happen to her, to ‘avoid unnecessary distress.’ She was given coffee with a sedative in it, but she refused to drink it — and then struggled as the doctor tried to kill her. She fought so fiercely that the doctor ordered her own family to physically hold her down, and she was forcibly euthanized.
A panel had previously cleared the doctor of ethical violations by saying she “acted in good faith.” That decision was recently overturned, however, by the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, which said the doctor’s actions were unethical and will be investigated along with five other similarly disturbing stories.
Currently, no evidence exists of the woman ever saying she wished to die by assisted suicide while in a clear state of mind. “Her living will was said to be contradictory, and while on some days she did say she wanted to die, on others she said she wanted to live,” reports LiveAction.
“Death with Dignity” advocates have decried the ruling, saying it puts patients who wish to die while suffering dementia at risk.
“At last there is clarity,” said Bert Keizer, a doctor who works for a euthanasia facility in the Netherlands. “But for people with a living will who want to die if they have advanced dementia, this is a negative ruling. If they can no longer indicate that they still want to die, they will have to drink the cup [of sedative] otherwise they will not receive euthanasia.”
Last year, 83 people with mental illness were killed in the Netherlands.