Dutch euthanasia regulator quits over dementia killings

A Dutch euthanasia regulator has quit her post in protest at the killings of patients suffering with dementia, the Catholic Herald has reported.

Berna van Baarsen said she could not support a major shift in the interpretation of her country’s euthanasia laws allowing for lethal injections for an increasing number of dementia patients. Ms van Baarsen is the second regulator to quit in three years, following Professor Theo Boer who stepped down in 2014 and warned British politicians not to follow the Dutch example of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Ms van Baarsen expressed concern that lethal injections were increasingly given to patients with fluctuating capacity. This has led to a fourfold increase in the number of euthanasia deaths of mental health patients in the last five years.

With respect to patients with fluctuating capacity Ms van Baarsen asks: “what is the right moment to grant euthanasia?” She also said it was very difficult to assess if patients with dementia were suffering unbearably, one of the criteria that must be met before euthanasia is considered permissible.

Police are currently in the process of investigating the death of an elderly woman by euthanasia. In the first of its kind, the investigation is looking into the circumstances of the woman, who suffered from dementia, and who was allegedly drugged and then pinned down while she was injected with lethal drugs.

The woman had apparently give consent to end her life by euthanasia when she was first diagnosed with dementia but had said “not now”. It is alleged that the nursing home decided the time was right for the woman to be euthanized when her condition deteriorated.

The Church’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia is well known. The sad developments from both the Netherlands and Belgium; the euthanizing of children, people with addiction problems, and now those suffering with mental ill health highlights the very real risks of legalised killing and suicide. And what message does it send out to those people and organisations, including our government, who work hard on initiatives to prevent suicide?