Sigh. I like it when prominent politicians criticize euthanasia. But I wish they would be more careful with their words because when they get the details wrong, it can do more harm than good.  Such might have been the case with Rick Santorum in an interview with James Dobson.  He told the truth about Dutch euthanasia but goofed with some of the details. It was up to me to set the record straight.  From, “Santorum More Right Than Wrong About Dutch Euthanasia”published  in the Daily Caller:

The Dutch like their euthanasia — but sure are sensitive when a prominent  person describes the horrors that medicalized killing has unleashed. Latest  example: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized Dutch  euthanasia in an interview with James Dobson, stating in part:

Ten percent of all deaths, and half of those people are euthanized  involuntarily, because they are old or sick. And so elderly people in the  Netherlands don’t go into a hospital. They go to another  country.

The Dutch media pounced, mocking Santorum for charging their doctors with “murdering” the elderly on “a grand scale.” Alas, he asked for it because he got  the details wrong. When decrying the culture of death, one must be as accurate  as possible. Otherwise, the fish wiggles off the hook

True, the elderly are not flocking to out-of-country hospitals.  But the 10% number isn’t that far off the mark:
But realize, about 1/3 of the Dutch die suddenly, e.g. by sudden stroke,  heart attack, or accident, without significant end-of-life medical intervention.  Take those deaths away from the total count, and using the Dutch government’s  estimate, the percentage of euthanasia deaths in cases involving end-of-life  medical treatment rises to 3-4%.

But even that number is far too low. Repeated studies have shown that Dutch  doctors fail to report at least 20% (or more) of actual euthanasia deaths, which  means that hundreds of euthanasias aren’t included in the official statistical  count. Moreover, about 1% of all Dutch deaths come as a result, to use Dutch  parlance, of being “terminated without request or consent” — e.g. non-voluntary  euthanasia. Such deaths are also not technically part of the official euthanasia  count. That gets us up to about 6% of all deaths involving medical treatment at  the time of death. Add in a few hundred assisted suicides each year where the  patient takes the final death action rather than being lethally injected, and  suddenly, Santorum’s 10% claim becomes far less problematic.

Wait, there’s more: Dutch doctors also kill patients by intentionally  overdosing them with pain killers. I am not referring here to death caused as a  side effect of legitimate pain control, but overdosing with the intent of  causing death. The exact number of these deaths isn’t known, but the  authoritative 1990 government study known as the Remmelink Report found that there were 8,100 deaths from intentional opioid  overdose, of which 61% were done without the request or consent of patients.  Now, add in, say, half of the nearly 10% of deaths that occur after Dutch  doctors place patients into artificial comas and deny them food and water — that  is, those cases in which palliative sedation is not medically necessary to  control otherwise irremediable suffering — and we see that Santorum’s claim of a  10% euthanasia rate isn’t materially overstated at all.

I get into how the Dutch are moving steadily toward allowing the euthanasia/assisted suicides of the elderly “tired of life” and how the Dutch Medical Association advocates including non medical issues such as money and loneliness, in determining whether an older person is “suffering” sufficiently to be euthanized. I also describe how Dutch doctors are permitted ethically to help non euthanasia qualified patients to learn how to kill themselves.  I discuss the infanticide in which some Dutch doctors engage and the mobile euthanasia clinics that are about to get rolling—all of which we have dealt with here at SHS.  I conclude:
The Dutch media also mocked Santorum for claiming that thousands of Dutch  citizens wear bracelets saying they don’t want to be euthanized. Fair is fair.  Santorum was wrong. They don’t wear bracelets — they carry please-don’t-euthanize-me cards in their wallets or  purses.

Enough. Rick Santorum is exactly right in his broader criticism that the  Netherlands as leaping head-first off a vertical moral cliff. Maybe if Dutch  reporters paid closer attention to what is happening under their very noses,  they’d stop laughing at Santorum’s minor factual errors and start acting like  journalists.

That would be a refreshing change in the USA about our own culture of death.  One can always dream.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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