25 Oct, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

In a case that marks a new descent into the darkness for humanity, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that a doctor who euthanized an elderly patient with dementia against her expressed wishes and while her family forcibly restrained her was innocent of any wrongdoing. 

NETHERLANDS AND EUTHANASIA

Despite Netherlands legislation permitting euthanasia, charges were brought against the doctor by prosecutors who reasoned the doctor did not consult the patient who might have changed her mind. Lower Dutch courts acquitted the doctor of wrongdoing and prosecutors dropped the charges. The case was referred to the supreme court for a legal clarification “in the interest of the law”.

The supreme court in The Hague ruled that “a physician may carry out a written request beforehand for euthanasia in people with advanced dementia.”

This case came one year after a controversial ruling that broadened a doctor’s ability to end the life of his patient. In last year’s case, the first since euthanasia was legalized in 2001, the patient had signed written consent, requesting she be euthanized rather than be placed in a care home. But in this legally mandated statement, she added that she wanted “to be able to decide [when to die] while still in my senses and when I think the time is right”.

At a certain point in her care, the doctor decided that her condition was such that a care home was the next step in her treatment. As per her written request, he began the requisite procedure and a date was set for her death.  On that morning, the doctor had coffee with the patient, her husband, and her adult daughter. Unbeknownst to the patient, the doctor put a sedative in her coffee. The woman remained awake and a second sedative was administered via an intravenous drip. The doctor began to administer the lethal injection but the woman woke up and her family was forced to restrain her to allow for the final injection. 

Euthanasia in the Netherlands is regulated by the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act” which was enacted in 2002. These criteria concern the patient’s request, the patient’s suffering (unbearable and hopeless), the information provided to the patient, the absence of reasonable alternatives, consultation of another physician, and the applied method of ending life. To demonstrate their compliance, the Act requires physicians to report euthanasia to a review committee including a written declaration of will of the patient signed before the onset of dementia. 

Euthanasia remains a criminal offense in cases not meeting the law’s specific conditions and for cases involving children under the age of 12. In 2017, the number of reported euthanasias had increased to 6,585.

Under current Dutch law, euthanasia by doctors is only legal in cases of “hopeless and unbearable” suffering. In practice, this means that it is limited to those suffering from serious medical conditions like severe pain, exhaustion, or asphyxia. Sometimes, psychiatric patients that have proven to be untreatable, can get euthanasia.

EUTHANASIA AND UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

The Netherlands has a universal healthcare system managed by the government and supplemented by private insurers and there is a definite connection between national healthcare and euthanasia. There are several levels of euthanasia. The first form is passive, withholding treatment at the patient’s request and allowing the patient to die.  Passive voluntary euthanasia is legal throughout the US per Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health.

Euthanasia can also be carried out actively in this scenario by lethal injection. When the patient actively brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the U.S. states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

Non-voluntary euthanasia is when the patient is unable to give his consent or against his will. This is technically illegal in all countries but there have been cases in which the state and legal system have usurped the position of the parents and decided to euthanize a child.

Though not all countries with universal health care have legalized euthanasia, all of the countries that have legalized euthanasia (Netherlands, Belgium, Columbia, Luxembourg, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany) have universal health care. There are currently six states in the U.S. with legalized euthanasia.

The UN Human Rights Committee wants to impose the universal legalization of abortion and euthanasia. It is sadly ironic that in order to do so, they must rewrite their International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights drafted in 1966 which states that “every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” This would allow for the UN adoption of abortion and euthanasia as human rights. 

BIBLICAL PROHIBITIONS AGAINST EUTHANASIA

 Abortions and assisted suicides are both prohibited by the Noahide Law which prohibits the spilling of blood. This is based on a verse in Genesis.

Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did Hashem make man. Genesis 9:6

In an interview last year on the subject, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prominent end-of-days author, noted a particularly disturbing aspect of euthanasia.

“It is unthinkable but many of these cases require a child giving permission to kill their parent,” Rabbi Winston said. “Society seems to be moving in this direction as the connection between parent and child falls by the wayside. Abortion is a mother rejecting her child and euthanasia may be a child rejecting their parent.”

Rabbi Winston pointed out that respecting a parent is one of the Ten Commandments and explicitly related to lengthening life.

Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that Hashem your God is assigning to you. Exodus 20:12

“Suffering is an important part of life,” Rabbi Winston said. “It may be difficult to accept but even suffering is from God. True humanity, true mercy and love, is long-term and may take years to work out. To cut that short is man’s desire for comfort, not a desire to be humane. The Torah fights against that. If you take away man’s divinity then all you are left with is a pursuit of comfort.”