Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Sir, – Peter Cluskey’s article “Groupthink exposed in prosecution of Dutch doctor in euthanasia case” (Hague Letter, World, June 23rd) about a recent case involving the prosecution and subsequent acquittal of a Dutch doctor, Marinou Arends, left me with a number of questions.
First, when the patient in question was asked by the doctor “Would you like me to help you to die”, and the woman said “Not yet” or “That’s going a bit far!”, was it merely a coincidence that her words seemed to indicate “No”?
Second, the doctor claims that she could tell from the look in the patient’s eyes that “the connection was gone”. What specific training would Dr Arends recommend for learning how to understand what a person wants from the look in a person’s eyes? As an aside, is it possible for people in the Netherlands to sign a document that asks their doctors to listen to what they are saying and to ignore whatever “look in their eye” the doctor thinks he or she sees?
Third, Peter Cluskey writes that, “A patient responding reflexively to the [euthanasia] procedure by trying to sit up, or even speaking briefly, is not unusual either.” It would be helpful if he provided a source for this claim. What precisely does “not unusual” mean? Do people respond reflexively 10 per cent or 50 per cent or 75 per cent of the time?
Fourth, Peter Cluskey writes that, “after the lethal drug had been given, the patient appeared to try to sit up, and had to be gently held back by her son-in-law”. When a frail person tries to sit up and is forced to lie down again, does your journalist think that the fact that the force required is “gentle” would be of significant consolation to the person forced to lie down? – Yours, etc,