Friday, January 14, 2005

"Suffering" ethics in the Netherlands

Evangelical Outpost reports on the Royal Dutch Medical Association decision that Dutch doctors ought to be able to kill patients (euthanasia, not assisted suicide) who are "suffering through living." The Supreme Court of the Netherlands had previously "upheld a guilty verdict on a GP for helping his 86 year old patient die, even though he was not technically ill but obsessed with his physical decline and hopeless existence."

Joe posts a quote from Jos Dijkhuis, an emeritus professor of clinical psychology who said, "In more than half of cases we considered, doctors were not confronted with a classifiable disease. In practice the medical domain of doctors is far broader … We see a doctor’s task is to reduce suffering, therefore we can’t exclude these cases in advance. We must now look further to see if we can draw a line and if so where." (emphasis added)

I always thought a doctor's task was to heal and care for patients, not kill them when they have no illness and then label it as "reduc(ing) suffering." It seems that many Dutch doctors fail to realize that killing patients doesn't "reduce suffering" - it ends lives, abandoning patients in their time of most need. It's a final desertion of someone who is reaching out for help.

From the British Medical Journal's extract: "The report argues that no reason can be given to exclude situations of such suffering from a doctor’s area of competence."

How about that doctors shouldn't have the right to kill whoever they feel is "suffering through living?" Who does that include? Teenagers who are depressed? How about the enormous possibility of abuse? Or how about the fact that doctors aren't God?

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