Friday, July 17, 2009

Euthanasia as a solution for Health Care Rationing

“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.” The Hippocratic Oath

I was shocked, although not surprised, to learn that the medical profession in Netherlands (Holland) has not only legalized euthanasia, but has expanded its use recently. Shocked, I say, because it is horrific to think that the medical profession, which once swore by the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”, has adopted values that are in direct conflict with the oath. But I was not surprised, because this seems to be a logical outcome to the liberal philosophy that has taken control of much of Europe, and whose “humane” attempt to provide affordable access to medical care has been tempered by the practical need to reduce costs.

And what has been the logical, although horrific outcome? Euthanasia has become an acceptable alternative to expensive treatment.

The story was exposed to me by the great conservative radio host, Mike Gallagher. I wanted to verify the veracity of his statements, so I began to search, and found no shortage of corroborating articles.

What had started out as a “humane” ending of suffering for the terminally ill morphed, over time, to include an ever widening list of conditions. Recently, doctors there have even begun to euthanize the elderly, and children.

In “Euthanasia in the Netherlands”, I read a personal story about a man whose Dutch parents returned to their homeland to visit relatives, and shrugged off a story about a woman who chose euthanasia over treatment for depression following the death of her last son. Her physician did not even try to treat her depression: no, he decided she wasn’t depressed, just deeply saddened by her loss, and had the right to die—with his assistance, of course—instead of finding a new reason to live at the ripe old age of 50.

The author pointed out that many survivors of the Holocaust had managed to find new meaning in their lives after the loss of their entire families, but that was apparently unimportant. He reports:

“Over 50% of Dutch physicians admitted to practicing euthanasia, most often on cancer patients. Only 60% kept written records of their euthanasia practice and only 29% filled out death certificates honestly in euthanasia cases…”

While that statistic alone was alarming, I then confirmed that “Only half of Dutch doctors report euthanasia, report says.” In 2001, the study focused on 5500 deaths, of which 41% to 54% of those cases were patients that had been euthanized.

Proponents of the practice will rally to say that these cases provided a humane ending for individuals suffering chronic pain, with terminal illnesses, who chose to end their lives under their own terms. But that, it turns out, is not always true.

80% of Dutch now support euthanasia, in a nation that, during World War II, resisted Nazi orders to euthanize patients, actions that later resulted in the hanging deaths of Nazi “war criminals”.

But today, the practice is so widely accepted, doctors have begun to euthanize many others. In his article, “The Dutch way of Death” (2001), Richard Miniter points out that, in 1990 alone, of the 130,000 Dutchmen who died, 11,800 were “killed or helped to die” by their doctors. An estimated 5,981 people were killed by their doctors WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT—according to the Dutch government.

But if that was not shocking enough, prepare yourself: “other groups that are put to death involuntarily: disabled infants, terminally ill children and mental patients. Some 8% of all infants who die in the Netherlands are killed by their doctors, according to a 1997 study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal.”

These facts prompted the Catholic Association of Doctors and Nurses to issue a statement protesting the decision of Groningen University Hospital to euthanize children under 12 when their pain is “intolerable, or if they have an incurable illness.”
“The ‘decision proposes a death solution in situations which could be addressed by modern palliative care”, and “raises the suspicion of a financial interest of the public authorities, since it decreases the 'burden' of prolonged and expensive care in clinical conditions for which any extension of life duration is considered meaningless.’ The association continues; ‘it opens the door on a national scale to the 'mercy killing' of other mentally incompetent persons, to be eliminated without their consent for reasons based on an external appreciation of their quality of life."
In “Now They Want to Euthanize Children” Wesley J. Smith explains that, “In the Netherlands, 31 percent of pediatricians have killed infants. A fifth of these killings were done without the ‘consent’ of parents.”

"In 30 years Holland has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia of people who are terminally ill to euthanasia of those who are chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for mental illness, from euthanasia for mental illness to euthanasia for psychological distress or mental suffering, and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia or as the Dutch prefer to call it ‘termination of the patient without explicit request’.
It is now considered a form of discrimination against the chronically ill to deny them assisted death because they will be forced to suffer longer than those who are terminally ill and it is considered bias to force endurance of psychological pain when it is not associated with physical illness. The next step, non-voluntary euthanasia, is then justified by appealing to our social duty to care for patients who are not competent to choose for themselves. "

Smith sums up the horror quite eloquently:

“It took the Dutch almost 30 years for their medical practices to fall to the point that Dutch doctors are able to engage in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged after Nuremberg.”

“Blame the radically altered mindset that results when killing is redefined from a moral wrong into a beneficent and legal act. If killing is right for, say the adult cancer patient, why shouldn't it be just as right for the disabled quadriplegic, the suicidal mother whose children have been killed in an accident, or the infant born with profound mental retardation?”

You may well ask what this has to do with us here in the United States.

According to the authors, a primary driving force in this barbaric shift from euthanizing only as a means of ending insufferable pain and misery to euthanizing patients ranging from the mentally disable, to Alzheimer’s patients, to the depressed, was the implementation of Socialized Medicine. The financial costs of treating the sick grew to the point that society might rebel against the ever increasing taxes necessary to support it. The government began to ration care, and pressured doctors to make decisions that would reduce care to those for whom it would not heal, in order to reduce costs.

Bureaucrats, in a single payer system, have been given the power of God over the public. Their actions now echo the policies of the Nazis, whose efforts to “strengthen the strain” resulted in the mass murder of millions across Europe in order to weed out the weak, the feeble, the retarded, and the incurably sick—not to mention those whose ethnic background was simply “unacceptable”.

It is logical to conclude that, as genetic testing for inherited diseases improves to the point that fetuses and babies can be identified as carrying the genes that will trigger future illnesses, doctors may decide to euthanize otherwise healthy infants or abort fetuses simply to avoid even the remote possibility of having to treat them in the future.

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