In a decision that is drawing widespread criticism from ethicists, a Netherlands medical committee has changed its code of practice to allow doctors to slip sedatives into the food or drink of patients with dementia before they are euthanized so as to prevent them from becoming “disturbed, agitated or aggressive.”
The change in rules by the Netherlands review committee for euthanasia comes after the country’s Supreme Court ruled in April that a doctor who carried out assisted suicide on a 74-year-old patient with Alzheimer’s did not commit murder by placing a sedative into the patient’s coffee.
The patient woke up and had to be held down by her daughter and husband, the BBC reported. The patient previously had written a statement saying she “wanted to be euthanized before entering a care home, but adding that she wanted to decide ‘while still in my senses and when I think the time is right,’” the BBC said.
The new rules say it “is not necessary for the doctor to agree with the patient the time or manner in which euthanasia will be given,” according to The Guardian.
Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the euthanasia review committee, said doctors “now have less to worry about putting their necks in a noose with euthanasia. They need less fear of justice. Or for the review committee.”
But many doctors and ethicists disagree with the concept. More than 200 Dutch doctors previously signed an ad saying they opposed the idea of “secretly” sedating patients in order to euthanize them, The Guardian said.
Ethicist Wesley J. Smith criticized the new rule, saying a doctor should not be able to decide “why and when” a patient dies.
“This is par for the Dutch course,” Smith wrote at NationalReview.com. “The response to an egregious abuse isn’t to rein in illegal practice and stop further wrongdoing but expand and legalize it and make it right.
“Once a society accepts killing as an acceptable response to human suffering,” Smith wrote, “there are no outer boundaries limiting where the killing will ultimately go. Those with eyes to see, let them see.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.