European Officials Trying to Stifle Euthanasia
Murder Case May Spur Dutch to Rethink Legislation
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BRUSSELS, Belgium, MAR. 16, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Dutch legalization of euthanasia may not a sure thing, after all.
Hopes that the legalization might be avoided have been raised by the murder conviction of a doctor who hastened the death of a terminally ill patient. When the lower house of the Dutch parliament voted to legalize euthanasia last November, the Senate´s approval was viewed as a simple rubber-stamp procedure.
But now, according to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the conviction of Wilfred van Oijen for killing an 84-year-old woman in 1997 has reignited the debate.
A court decided that the death was not covered by the Netherlands´ current provisions which allow doctors to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients because the patient had neither requested it nor had another doctor been consulted. Ron Jonquiere, managing director of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said: "Our concern is that at the last moment, too many members of the Senate will reconsider their decisions." The final vote will take place next month.
The Dutch would not be alone in rethinking the wisdom of euthanasia. European politicians are being urged to oppose plans to extend the practice of euthanasia in Belgium as well, the British Medical Journal reports.
Shortly after the Dutch Senate considers its bill, Belgium will consider legalizing euthanasia for the first time. In some areas it is planning to go even further than its Dutch neighbors would. Whereas in the Netherlands a second doctor must review any decision, in Belgium he or she would only need to consider the diagnosis that had been made.
Two German members of the European Parliament are now trying to mobilize European public opinion against the new legislation. Dr. Peter Liese, chairman of the Christian Democratic working group for bioethics in the European parliament, and his compatriot, Hiltrud Breyer, the Green party´s spokeswoman on the temporary committee for human genetics, are calling for alternative treatment for people at the end of their lives.
They support each patient´s right to reject life-prolonging measures such as artificial respiration. But they insist that this is totally different from active euthanasia.
"If the state starts to allow medical doctors to give pills or an injection to their patients with the sole aim of killing the patients, the misuse of this method is inevitable," they pointed out.
Instead, they want increased European Union and national funds for research into effective pain relief and improved palliative care. They are also looking for political support from the European Parliament to put pressure on national authorities to provide more hospices.