Apologies for bringing up such a depressing topic this weekend, but a story out of the Netherlands has been making the rounds and it involves the ongoing debate over assisted suicide in this country. The Free Beacon highlighted the tale of an unnamed Dutch doctor who ended the life of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. What’s more, it was done against her wishes. Upon being taken to court, he was fully acquitted and will serve no time.
The acquittal of a Dutch doctor who drugged and euthanized a dementia patient against her will sparked outrage in the United States as assisted suicide bills spread.
On Wednesday, a Dutch court acquitted a doctor who admitted to administering lethal medication to a dementia patient with the help of her family. The 74-year-old woman had previously indicated her preference for euthanasia, but when she declined to follow through on those promises the doctor drugged her coffee and killed the woman as her family members restrained her. The Hague District Court ruled that the doctor, who was not named, had not violated the 2002 law that legalized euthanasia.
It’s unfortunate that this case is already being conflated with assisted suicide laws in the United States. To clear this up, we should remind ourselves of the actual definitions of the words being tossed around here. Assisted suicide is when a doctor prescribes drugs for a terminally ill patient that will allow them to end their own life. Euthanasia (which is not legal anywhere in the United States but certainly still happens a lot) is when the doctor administers the drugs to the patient at their request to end their life.
This was neither of those things. The woman had refused euthanasia after previously agreeing to it. Her family held her down while the doctor administered the lethal drug cocktail and she died. We have a different word for that scenario in our legal system. It’s known as murder. The doctor and the participating family members being found completely innocent is an indictment of the Dutch legal system.
But what I really hate to see happening is the attempt to portray this as some reason to slam the states in America that have passed assisted suicide laws. I understand that my own position on this subject is frequently unpopular in conservative circles, but I still believe terminally ill people deserve the right to choose how and when they leave this world when faced with a hopeless situation and unending pain.
I’ll go so far as to agree that there is a slippery slope here, but it’s also one that should be easily avoided. I’ve not heard many serious people talking about allowing euthanasia in the United States, or even assisted suicide for younger, healthier people with emotional problems. (Both of these are happening in Europe.) Were any such measures proposed here, I would argue against them vigorously.
But that doesn’t mean that the entire subject has to be off the table. It’s a sensitive and controversial topic. I get it. And I don’t think it should be decided at the federal level. But for the states where a majority of the population wants to allow doctor-assisted suicide under the limited conditions I described above, I still believe they should be able to do so.