FRANCE, NETHERLANDS PAVING WAY FOR MERCY KILLINGS
December 13, 2004
The Netherlands and France are making it easier to euthanize patients who are gravely or terminally ill, say observers.
Three years ago, the Dutch Parliament made it legal for doctors to inject a lethal dose of muscle relaxant at the request of adult patients suffering great pain with no hope of relief. In addition, the law also applies to newborns:
- The law also allows ending the life of newborns deemed be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities.
- It is estimated that the state will euthanize about 10 children per year; last year, there were four cases of child euthanasia reported.
The Dutch are also contemplating guidelines to allow mercy killings of those that are in severe pain but cannot decide for themselves to end their life -- a group that includes babies, children, severely mentally-ill and those in irreversible coma.
Meanwhile, the French have passed a bill legalizing what they say is a "passive" form of euthanasia. Unlike laws in the Netherlands, proponents stress that this deals mainly with acts of omission:
- At the request of patients and their families, doctors could euthanize by discontinuing medical treatment that is maintaining life artificially.
- Doctors will not be penalized for administering higher-than-normal doses of medication, even if it may hasten death.
Furthermore, gravely or terminally-ill patients can refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. This latter part of the legislation was particularly controversial, thus safeguards require additional medical consultation and a period of reconsideration by the patient.
Source: "France Approves What It Calls 'Passive' Euthanasia," Townhall.com, December 1, 2004; and Toby Sterling, "Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies," Associated Press, November 30, 2004.
For AP text
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