Dutch doctors blackmailed and pressured in euthanasia requests
1 July 2019
Doctors reported emotional blackmail and other pressures to agree to euthanasia requests.
"It is natural that once euthanasia is legal, promoted, and normalized, that physicians will be pressured to do the act."
As Parliament prepares to debate assisted dying on Thursday, and medical bodies in the UK consider dropping their opposition to ending patients’ lives, a new study has revealed the worrying amount of pressure GPs in the Netherlands are put under to perform euthanasia.
Warning from the Netherlands
“Pressure in dealing with requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Experiences of general practitioners” was recently published by the British Medical Journal, and has been analysed by Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
The study interviewed 22 General Practitioners (GPs) and did in-depth interviews with 15 GPs in the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002. The in-depth interviews concerned 36 euthanasia deaths whereby the GP felt pressured. The study concluded that:
Six categories of pressure GPs experienced in dealing with EAS (euthanasia and assisted suicide) requests were revealed: (1) emotional blackmail, (2) control and direction by others, (3) doubts about fulfilling the criteria, (4) counter pressure by patient’s relatives, (5) time pressure around referred patients and (6) organisational pressure.
Coercion from families
Cases of emotional blackmail included patients threatening to commit suicide if the euthanasia request was not granted. Disturbingly, there were cases of the family threatening to kill the patient: ‘Well, will I have to do it myself then, will I have to put a pillow over her head? And then you will be the guilty one’ (Case 9.1)
The study also showed that doctors had to try to counteract pressure being exerted on a patient by their family. Case 4.1 states: “One GP counteracted this pressure by encouraging the patient to explicitly state to her partner: ‘I am dying, not you, and I am the one making this decision’”.
There were also cases of the GPs feeling pressured by time constraints, being unsure if the legal criteria were being fulfilled, and patients taking control of the process.
Natural progression of legal euthanasia
Mr Schadenburg concludes: “The concern that this study uncovers is that some euthanasia deaths are done based on pressure by the patient or by the family. In other words, these doctors are agreeing to kill a patient because they feel pressured to do the act… It is natural that once euthanasia is legal, promoted, and normalized, that physicians will be pressured to do the act. It is also normal that once euthanasia is legal, that those physicians who do euthanasia will start to view certain life experiences as being ‘better off dead’."
On Thursday 4 July, Nick Boles MP is leading a debate on assisted dying in the UK. Studies like these illustrate how dangerous legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide is, and how the current law in the UK protects every citizen, especially the elderly, sick and disabled.