Dutch play probes “mercy killing” as euthanasia deaths fall

May 8, 2008

Alzheimer’s patient in Dutch nursing home, 7 May 2008/Michael Kooren“The Good Death,” a play about euthanasia, has brought the issue of “mercy killing” to Dutch theatres at a time when such deaths are falling. They dropped to 2,325, or 1.7 percent of all deaths in 2005, from 2.6 percent in 2001. Playing to packed houses throughout the Netherlands, which legalised euthanasia in 2002, the play shows the law has not removed the moral dilemma for many involved.

In fact, part of the reason for the drop in euthanasia deaths could be that agonised doctors are opting to give patients heavy sedation until they die, rather than putting an end to their lives. Even some patients who have asked for euthanasia are given continuous deep sedation instead. This feature by our Netherlands chief correspondent Emma Thomasson looks at the issues involved.

This raises the question of whether deep sedation, while being presented as palliative care that is ethically acceptable for many faiths, is not in fact “euthanasia lite.” Or at least whether it is being used as such. The British Medical Journal has suggested this in a report that prompted an editorial and a lively reader discussion. “Although the exact cause of this trend is unclear, there are indications that continuous deep sedation may in some cases be being used as a substitute for euthanasia,” a report in Science Daily said.

Alzheimer’s patient sleeps in Dutch nursing home, 7 May 2008/Michael KoorenThe fall in Dutch euthanasia deaths is sometimes cited by “death in dignity” campaigners in other European countries as a sign that legalisation is not a slippery slope towards the easy disposal of ailing patients. This suggests it might lead in another direction that could undermine the palliative care option often presented as the alternative to legalised euthanasia.

Where do you think the line should be drawn in end-of-life care?


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[…] (Ruth Gledhill) Catholic-Mormon tension over LDS baptism of the dead (Tom Heneghan, FaithWorld) Dutch play probes “mercy killing” as euthanasia deaths fall (Tom Heneghan, FaithWorld) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)GLARING […]

Posted by Shock horror (not)! Terrorist is bad Muslim!! « The Daily Terror | Report as abusive

End-of -life care should end when thew person dies naturally.

Posted by sashalee | Report as abusive

sashalee – Why?

Why not end the care when a person wants it to end – When they have had enough pain & suffering and want to leave this world with dignity, surrounded by loved ones?

Posted by Tom Morgan | Report as abusive

My Grandma died naturally with dignity and surrounded by loved ones. Why does someone need euthanasia in order to die with loved ones around them?

Posted by sasha | Report as abusive

I have lived in Holland and I know how what a progressive and positive place it is. Here they lead the world with their respect for the will of the individual. It is not without good reason that Dutch children are reportedly the happiest in Europe. The world should be following their example on their euthanasia stance. I respect them tremendously.

Posted by SW | Report as abusive