In his book Seduced by Death , Herbert Hendin reported that one reason the Dutch people have not turned against their euthanasia law is that doctors and the media in Holland do not candidly report about the many abuses and violations of the law that occur with regard to their country’s euthanasia policy.
A recent news report on Radio Netherlands, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of formal legalization, gives a good example. It contained no discussion of the approximately 1,000 patients who, without requesting euthanasia, are nonetheless killed by Dutch doctors. It contained no discussion of the Dutch Supreme Court permitting the depressed to be assisted in suicide. It contained no substantive dissent at all.
It did, however, contain quotations from Dr. Bert Keizer, author of the book Dancing with Mr. D , in which he describes his euthanasia work as a nursing home doctor. He said, for instance, "People who ask for euthanasia are not put under pressure, they are under the burden of suffering."
Hendin and others have demonstrated otherwise. And there are all sorts of ways to pressure patients into killing themselves¯some of which in Keizer himself notes in his own book. For example, there’s Van de Berg, a Parkinson’s patient who asks for euthanasia. But before Keizer can kill him, Van de Berg receives a letter from his religious brother telling him that it would be a sin to commit suicide and would violate the way they were raised as children by their parents.
The man hesitates. Keizer is not amused. From page 94:
And now this letter, which to my surprise, he takes seriously. I don’t know what to do with such a wavering death wish. It’s getting on my nerves. Does he want to die or doesn’t he? I hope I don’t have to go over the whole business again . . . . Suddenly, I have an idea: "You know what we’ll do? We’ll ask Hendrik Terborgh, our vicar. Would you agree to that?" He cries and types "yes." . . .
Next day Hendrik tells me that it’s all right. He refers to his meeting with Van de Berg. "Well, he knows what has to be done. He knows what he wants now." . . . It goes well. He has good veins.
Keizer does not tell us what the vicar told Van de Berg, but I think it is a good bet he didn’t engage in suicide prevention or validate the brother’s religious concerns. Also, note that Keizer is far more concerned about the bureaucratic matters than with the well being of his own patient. One can imagine how depressing it would feel to have such a doctor, how alone and abandoned it would seem.
Here’s another form of pressure: Not telling a patient about the ability to control pain, or even waiting for a final diagnosis before agreeing to kill a patient. Keizer is asked to euthanize Teus, a man whom he thinks ¯but does not know¯has lung cancer. He discusses the case with his colleague on page 37, who asks if the patient is really suffering badly. "Is it for us to answer that question? All I know is that he wants to die more or less upright and that he doesn’t want to crawl to his grave the way a dog crawls howling to the sidewalk after he’s been hit by a car.
Patients with cancer do not have to die in this manner. Proper medical care would prevent it. But this is never mentioned to the patient. Nor, from what we read, does Keizer even know about the powers of morphine to control cancer pain. He doesn’t even discuss hospice with Teus or his family¯which is outrageous negligence. Instead, as he describes on page 39, when Keizer gets ready to euthanize Teus, he will countenance no doubts: "I tell Jaarsma and De Goover [Keizer’s colleagues] that Teus is going to die that evening. Jaarsma seems sore but raises no objection. De Goover looks sharply at me, trying to work out how scared I am. If anyone so much as whispers ‘cortisone’ or ‘uncertain diagnosis,’ I’ll hit him."
The most telling passage in the book may come when Keizer is asked by a colleague whether he should love his patients. "’What about love,’ Herman wonders. ‘Shouldn’t you love your patients, if only a little?’ I don’t know right away what to say. I think it’s good for the profession if I heave a deep sigh now and declare my assent. And there are situations that upset you. But love? I doubt it."
Those we would kill, we must first dehumanize¯or at least, we must divorce ourselves from their humanity. This abandoning ethic is repeatedly illustrated by Dr. Keizer’s book. Everyone who wants to read first hand about the cold, sterile, anti-human values intrinsic to the euthanasia movement should read his Dancing with Mr. D .Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.
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