Marlowe's Shade

Friday, November 04, 2005

Two Routes Down the Slippery Slope

From Notre Dame Observer

Law Professor Charles Rice has an interesting take on the different approachs to euthanasia in Holland and the US. Basically he posits that we may be farther along than the Dutch:

"If you allow it to occur," said Dr. Chris Feudtner of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "it will occur in cases where it is not ethical, period." Feudtner was referring to the Netherlands' legalization of euthanasia of newborns and infants pursuant to the Groningen University Protocol. The Protocol prescribes the killing procedures. The child must be in "hopeless and unbearable suffering," so that "the parents and the physicians … concur that death would be more humane than continued life." The Protocol codifies the informal Dutch practice under which newborns had been euthanized, usually for spina bifida, with no physicians prosecuted.

The Netherlands were the first nation to legalize euthanasia for adults, allowing the physician to "terminate life on request or to provide assistance with suicide." That law, which took effect in 2002, allows a person of 12 years or older to be killed if he had made an advance written request for termination of his life if his suffering becomes "unbearable" with "no prospect of improvement." If the patient is between 12 and 16, the parent or guardian must agree to the killing. If the patient is between 16 and 18, the parent or guardian must be consulted.

The Dutch get undeserved credit as trail-blazers in euthanasia. The United States may be the front-runner, even though our law does not permit a physician to kill the patient. Oregon allows assisted suicide, but that merely allows the physician to give the patient the means by which the patient can kill himself. While the law in the United States stops short of legalizing intentional, direct and active killing of patients, as permitted in Holland (and Belgium), it broadly permits intentional killing by terminal sedation or by withholding food and water.

I don't agree that this means we are farther ahead. The rule of law is important, and we haven't seen all the horrors of the Dutch experiment yet. But after Terri Schiavo I would agree that we are much farther along than most of us suspected.
papijoe 10:02 AM