Doctors should refer patients for euthanasia, even if they oppose it: new Dutch guidelines
NETHERLANDS, September 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – According to new guidelines from the Dutch national doctors association, doctors with moral objections to euthanasia have “a moral and professional duty” to refer patients to another doctor willing to euthanize them.
“If a physician is not prepared to consider a euthanasia request from patients then he also should not initiate the procedure. The physician must then put the patient in touch with a colleague who does not have fundamental objections to euthanasia and assisted suicide,” states the KNMG’s position paper, titled “The role of the physician in the voluntary termination of life (2011).”
“Though there is no legal obligation to refer patients, there is a moral and professional duty to provide patients with timely assistance in finding a physician (for example, within the practice) who does not have fundamental objections to euthanasia and assisted suicide,” it continues.
A recent Een Vandaag survey of 800 general medical practitioners in Holland found that almost one third of doctors had refused a euthanasia request within the past five years, and that almost two thirds said they felt “under pressure” regularly or sometimes to commit euthanasia.
Increasing pressure from the family of a patient for euthanasia was reported by 36% of respondents. Over eighty percent of respondents said they felt increasing pressure by society in general to commit euthanasia.
Dutch euthanasia laws require a consensus between two doctors that a patient is suffering unbearable pain and is making an informed choice to die before the patient can be euthanized. However, the new guidelines say that all requests for euthanasia should be taken seriously, even if someone is simply tired of living but is not terminally ill.
“The KNMG urges all physicians to consult an SCEN physician in cases where there is a reasonable doubt as to whether the suffering is unbearable but the physician feels the patient’s right to have his request assessed should not be dismissed out of hand,” the guidelines state.
Alex Schadenberg, Chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, points out that the number of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands has significantly increased on a year by year basis, and that the number of deaths without explicit request or consent also continues to escalate.
“The 2009 report states that there were 2636 reported euthanasia deaths, a 13% increase over the 2008 statistics. However, the Netherlands has separate categories for assisted suicide and deaths without explicit request or consent. A 2005 report indicated approximately 400 assisted suicide deaths and 550 deaths without explicit request or consent.”
“The reality is that euthanasia is out of control in the Netherlands,” Schadenberg concluded.
The KNMG position paper, in English, can be downloaded by clicking here.