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Dutch Doctors Hasten Deaths of Sick Children With Euthanasia

Steven Ertelt Editor
September 8, 2005

Amsterdam, Netherlands ( -- A new analysis of Dutch doctors by researchers in the Netherlands finds that they are more frequently using euthanasia to kill sick children, sometimes taking the country's assisted suicide laws as far as they will allow.

The European nation legalized euthanasia in 2002 and previous reports show Dutch doctors granting most patients' request to be killed.

The new study involves the deaths of 64 children during a four month period and finds that doctors hastened the deaths of 42 of them. The government-sponsored study gave the doctors immunity from having their names revealed or being prosecuted for their actions and their responses were kept anonymous.

According to the Irish Examiner newspaper, the report finds doctors engaged in actions varying from withholding life support from patients doctors believed would die anyway to administering drugs such as morphine with the intent of hurrying a patient's death.

One case involved euthanasia in the strictest sense -- a doctor making the decision to directly take a patient's life because he believed the patient was beyond hope.

Astrid Vrakking of Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam told the Examiner that, in other situations, the actions "take place at the boundaries of what is legally allowed."

"Whether or not these boundaries are supportive or rightful is, of course, a matter of debate," Vrakking added.

The report describes one case where physicians gave an 18 month old child suffering from a progressive neurodegenerative disease sedatives and drugs after the parents requested them.

Meanwhile, an August report in the August issue of Archives of Internal Medicine claims Dutch doctors are properly handling euthanasia and assisted suicide requests that come their way. The study finds 44 percent of people who seek assisted suicide are killed, 13 percent change their minds and doctors refuse in only 12 percent of the cases.

Susan M. Wolf, J.D., of the University of Minnesota Law School, has studied euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands and doesn't think it would work in the United States.

"The Dutch have struggled mightily for more than two decades to devise a system to oversee physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia and keep both practices within agreed bounds. It is not clear that they have succeeded," Wolf says.

The study was published Monday in the September issue of Archives of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved