I hope to be visiting the Netherlands for the first time this spring. I just hope that I don’t fall ill and unable to speak for myself, or tick off my family to the point that they decide I need to die and are willing to hold me down to make it happen. Well, that’s probably a poor analogy. But let’s just say that the Netherlands are not a place I would feel safe living in if I was getting on in years and suspecting I might be developing dementia. Someone might make the decision that it was time for me to die, even if I didn’t want to.
That’s what happened to one woman, and the Dutch courts have cleared the doctor involved of any criminal responsibility because she acted “in good faith”. I’m not sure what that means. Family members were asked to hold down the woman so the doctor could inject her with a lethal dose of drugs. This after a sedative in her coffee failed to sedate her enough for them to do this peacefully. Clearly, the woman didn’t want to die – certainly not at this point, although there are indications that perhaps she had once been open to the idea.
The woman suffered from dementia and lived in a nursing home. She had exhibited signs of fear and anger – neither very unusual in these cases as I understand it – and also was prone to wandering around at night (also not necessarily unusual for someone with dementia). The article doesn’t make clear who requested the euthanasia. Had the woman left instructions when her mental faculties were capable of such things? And if so, should she be forced to abide by that decision against her own will in the moment? Did the family request the euthanasia, and is there any reason to think they could be held accountable? Or was it the doctor’s idea, assuring the family that this was the merciful and loving thing to do, fully in keeping with the woman’s own (previous) wishes or ideas?
Proponents of assisted suicide never talk about these sorts of situations, yet they go develop sooner or later. After 17 years of legal euthanasia, I’m sure there are plenty of Dutch doctors who have absolutely no qualms about ending a human life, even when the person doesn’t want to die and is capable of physically resisting. I don’t understand how anyone can not be worried by this sort of thing.