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News of the Day ... in Perspective

12/2/2004

Euthanasia spreads in Europe

Three years ago, the Dutch parliament made it legal for a physician to inject a sedative and a lethal dose of a paralyzing agent “at the request of adult patients suffering great pain with no hope of relief.” Now there is growing discussion on whether to legalize euthanasia for people who have “no free will,” such as children, the severely retarded, and comatose patients. Groningen Academic Hospital has already been euthanizing newborns said to be “terminally ill.”

“As things are, people are doing this secretly, and that’s wrong,” said Eduard Verhagen, head of Gronigen’s children’s clinic. “In the Netherlands, we want to expose everything, to let everything be subject to vetting” (AP story, Ariz. Daily Star 12/1/04).

It is estimated that about 20 newborns are killed by lethal injection in the Netherlands each year ( BMJ 2004;329:591 (Sept. 11).)

In Britain, the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England have joined in opposing the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill bill, which would clear the way for euthanasia in Great Britain. The British Medical Association also opposes the legislation, although the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners have dropped their opposition. In Britain the maximum sentence for helping a person commit suicide is 14 years in prison.

Dr. Hazel Biggs, director of medical law at the University of Kent, estimates that 18,000 people are “helped to die” each year by their physicians (The Observer from The Guardian , 9/19/04.)

Additional information:

“The End of Life,” AAPS News, January 1999

“Prescribed Death,” AAPS News, December 2003

“The Cost-Effectiveness of Killing: an Overview of Nazi `Euthanasia;” by John Gardella, M.D., Medical Sentinel July/August 1999.

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