Dutch Woman With Alzheimers Euthanized — Even After She Changed Her Mind
A doctor went through with euthanizing a patient even while the patient fought her, because the doctor didn't want the patient to get "cold feet."
A 70-year-old Dutch woman sipped her coffee and excitedly made plans with her husband and children to spend the afternoon with them and eat a meal together. The woman suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but was lucid enough to know her family and make plans for the day. What she didn’t know was that she would not be spending the afternoon with them or eating lunch — her family had already made plans with the doctor to end her life.
The unidentified Alzheimer’s patient had suffered from the disease for four years and wrote a living will, saying she did not want to go into a nursing home and would prefer assisted suicide when she determined the “time was right,” reported the National Catholic Register. However, as of last year, her dementia had progressed to the point that her aging husband could not care for her. When she entered the nursing home she told the staff that she wished to die but “not right now.”
The day that she was euthanized she was making plans to spend time with her family. She didn’t know that her husband had decided with the doctor that “she was ready to die.” The sedative the family put in her coffee didn’t work, so the doctor came into the room to administer the first of three fatal drugs. She aroused from her sleepy state and fought the doctor who was attempting to give her the shot. It was then that the patient’s family was asked to hold her down for the procedure. According to a report from the Dutch Regional Review Committee, the doctor did not stop because she did not think that it was “appropriate to halt termination of life,” as the topic of assisted suicide had been discussed for a while and the doctor didn’t want the patient to “get cold feet.”
While the patient frequently talked with nursing home staff about wanting to die, when asked by the doctor if she wanted to die, she repeatedly replied, “Not now … it’s not so bad!”
However, the report states that the woman had “no clear advanced directive,” and had “never verbally requested euthanasia.” But it wouldn’t have mattered. According to the report, “Even if the patient had said, ‘I don’t want to die,’ the doctor would have continued the termination.”
The committee determined that the doctor had “not acted in accordance with the due care criteria” within the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act of 2002. The committee also found that the doctor “crossed a line” by administering the drug in the patient’s coffee without her knowledge and failing to suspend the euthanasia when the patient reacted negatively to the administration of the drugs. When euthanizing patients, said the committee, doctors must avoid coercion as well as the appearance of coercion at all costs. Even so, the doctor was not sanctioned.
Alistair Thompson of Care Not Killing, a U.K. group opposing assisted suicides and euthanasia, said that once euthanasia is made lawful for terminally ill patients, it’s only a matter of time before it affects the weak and vulnerable. The law says “We care so little for people, that we allow it. ‘You’re old; your life must be over.’ ‘You’re disabled; your life must not be worth living.’ … This is another good example of why the law has to be clear: that we do not kill people who are ill or disabled.”