In the Netherlands, a doctor has appeared in court after having performed euthanasia on a woman suffering from dementia. She had made a living will in the past and, according to her daughter, she wanted to die. Nonetheless, the 74-year woman had no recollection of it and during the procedure she struggled trying to prevent the doctor from killing her, as if she changed her mind. She had to be restrained by her son and daughter.
The public prosecutors have questioned how consent was obtained from the woman, claiming that not enough was done to verify her will. For this reason, they said that the doctor should be found guilty of murder but not given any punishment as they believe the law is unclear.
Last year, in the Netherlands 146 patients with dementia and 67 suffering psychiatric disorders were put down through direct euthanasia or assisted suicide. This will be a test case for the current Dutch law.
Tom Curran is a director of Exit International, an organisation that wishes to legalise assisted suicide for anyone who makes a ‘rational’ decision to die and not only the terminally ill. He has also helped Deputy John Halligan in drafting a piece of legislation to introduce assisted suicide in Ireland for the terminally ill. As the Netherlands shows, this is likely to be a starting point only.
On the Pat Kenny Show, Mr Curran said about the Dutch case: “To me, the rights of a person is the right to make a decision. And if the person goes beyond the capability to make a rational decision, it shouldn’t apply.”
This seems to indicate he does not favour killed demented patients even if they requested it when they were still mentally competent.
Curran advocates a law that contains some safeguards. “In Switzerland, when a foreign person travels, the day before the assistance is given they are tested for competence and to me this is one of the safeguards that need to be there”.
This might seem restrictive, but it isn’t really because in Curran’s world it would still be wide open for anyone to ‘rationally’ choose death, and that gives almost all of us a ‘right to die’.
The woman killed in the Netherlands was presumably ‘rational’ when she originally said she would like to be given a lethal injection once she became sufficiently demented. The fact she had to be held down in order to receive the injection might be taken as evidence of the extent of her dementia?
In any event, we can see what can happen once a country introduces assisted suicide and euthanasia. Hard cases were used to argue against restrictive abortion laws? Should hard cases be used to argue against assisted suicide laws?