In the Netherlands, one out of 20 Dutch who die is killed by a physician. After killing so often, you lose the horror of it. Half of Dutch doctors have no problem suggesting to patients that being killed might be a good idea. More than 1,000 Dutch patients each year are killed by doctors without the patient's consent. One Dutch woman with breast cancer who said she did not want euthanasia was killed anyway because, in the doctor's words, "It could have taken another week before she died. I just needed this bed."
Yet research shows that most patients requesting suicide are depressed or suffering from poor management of their symptoms, and when offered good palliative care recover a sense of meaning and dignity facing death.
But the most telling new thing I learned in "The Case Against Assisted Suicide" is the culture of silence imposed on doctors in Oregon (which legalized assisted suicide). A section of the law forbids professional medical associations or health-care providers (including individual doctors and nurses) from censuring doctors who participate (or refuse to participate) in assisted suicide.
Is killing a patient ever a proper medical function? Oregon's assisted suicide law forbids professional medical organizations from even considering this question. To care and to kill become semantically and morally indistinguishable, two types of medical procedures. In this and a hundred other ways, a right to die becomes both a right to kill and a duty to get out of the way.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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