The Dutch psychiatrist whose lawsuit opened the door to allowing assisted suicide in the Netherlands for people suffering depression is now having second thoughts.

Boudewijn Chabot

Boudewijn Chabot

Boudewijn Chabot, in an article titled “Worrisome Culture Shift in the Context of Self-Selected Death,” decries the new practice of allowing psychiatrists without a therapeutic relationship with a patient to determine whether assisted suicide is permissible under the law.

Wesley Smith, a leading bioethics expert and opponent of assisted suicide and euthanasia, writes in a column for National Review that he predicted the development.

“Euthanasia consciousness changes mindsets. It alters societal morality,” he said. “It distorts our views of the importance of vulnerable lives. It leads to abandonment and various forms of subtle and blatant coercion. Over time, it can’t be controlled.”

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The Netherlands became the first nation to allow assisted suicide after a series of court cases in the 1980s formalized the criteria for it, culminating in a 2002 law.

Chabot was prosecuted in the early 1990s for assisting the suicide of a deeply depressed woman who wanted to die after the deaths of her two children. He met with the woman four times over several weeks but never actually treated her, Smith recounted. The psychiatrist then supplied her with poison pills, which she took.

Smith said Chabot’s lawyer told him in an interview for his book “Forced Exit” that the Dutch government never had any intention of actually imprisoning or even sanctioning Chabot.

The purpose, the lawyer said, was to set a precedent to allow deep psychological suffering to justify assisted suicide.

Smith said the Dutch Supreme Court in 1994 ruled, essentially, that suffering is suffering, whether physical or emotional, and it’s the suffering that justifies assisted suicide, not the disease itself.

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Two decades later, he said, Dutch psychiatrists euthanize mentally ill patients, whose organs may be voluntarily harvested after their death.

Now, he said, Chabot “has been stricken by conscience,” recognizing “euthanasia groups have recruited psychiatrists to kill.”

Chabot argued in his paper that without “a therapeutic relationship, by far most psychiatrists cannot reliably determine whether a death wish is a serious, enduring desire.”

Wesley J. Smith

Wesley J. Smith

“Even within a therapeutic relationship, it remains difficult. But a psychiatrist of the clinic can do so without a therapeutic relationship, with less than ten ‘in-depth’ conversations?”

Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, is a consultant for the Patients Rights Council who has been named by the National Journal as one of the nation’s top expert thinkers in bioengineering for his work in bioethics. He is among the world’s foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics.

Chabot, in his article, recounted three reports “of euthanasia of deep-demented persons who could not confirm their death wish.”

“One of the three was identified as having been done without due care; her advance request could be interpreted in different ways. The execution was also done without due care; the doctor had first put a sedative in her coffee. When the patient was lying drowsily on her bed and was about to be given a high dose, she got up with fear in her eyes and had to be held down by family members. The doctor stated that she had continued the procedure very consciously.”

Smith commented that Chabot is examining “the social and moral wreckage he helped unleash and wonders: Where did the Euthanasia Law go off the tracks?”

Chabot writes that the “euthanasia practice is running amok because the legal requirements which doctors can reasonably apply in the context of physically ill people, are being declared equally applicable without limitation in the context of vulnerable patients with incurable brain diseases.”

“In psychiatry,” Chabot writes, “an essential limitation disappeared when the existence of a treatment relationship was no longer required. In the case of dementia, such a restriction disappeared by making the written advance request equivalent to an actual oral request.”

Lastly, Chabot says, “it really went off the tracks when the review committee concealed that incapacitated people were surreptitiously killed.”

‘Horrible picture’

In February, a Dutch doctor carrying out a lethal injection on an elderly woman ordered her family to restrain her when she resisted, creating what even euthanasia advocates called a “horrible picture.”

The case in Amsterdam, the National Catholic Register reported, was one of several similar instances of resistance, including a sex-abuse victim in her 20s, a 41-year-old alcoholic, a woman with ringing in her ears and now an Alzheimer’s patient.

In nearby Belgium, euthanasia was broadened three years ago to include children.

Alistair Thompson of the anti-euthanasia advocacy group Care Not Killing told the Register it’s a typical slippery-slope scenario.

“The problem is that the law always evolves. It’s always pushed on, a little bit, and a little bit. Once you’ve crossed the Rubicon, it becomes people who are not mentally competent, people who are frail or weary of life,” he said.

In the Netherlands, assisted suicide is legal for infants up to a year old and for children over the age of 12. But doctors are already investigating allowing it for all children.

‘Duty to die’

In the United States, six states allow doctor-assisted suicide, beginning with Oregon’s 1994 Death with Dignity Act, which was approved by a voter referendum, 51 to 49 percent.

In an interview last fall with WND and Radio America, Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, warned that where doctor-assisted suicide is legal, “it moves from what is generally called a right to die to a duty to die.”

He pointed out that former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm made that argument in 1984, stating elderly people who are terminally ill “have got a duty to die and get out of the way. Let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.”

Was Terri Schiavo’s death really assisted suicide? Get the book that powerfully and comprehensively tells “Terri’s Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman” – at the WND Superstore

Hunt said that while assisted-suicide advocates paint the practice as the ultimate act of personal liberty, “in every case where this is legalized, you are inviting government and you’re inviting insurance companies to get involved in this decision and that is a very, very bad deal.”

In Oregon, the Medicaid system has become involved with end-of-life decisions, Hunt said.

“They would send letters to terminally ill cancer patients saying, ‘We’re not going to pay the $4,000 per month required for you to stay alive, but we’ll pay the $100 for you to kill yourself.'”

Another argument in favor of doctor-assisted suicide is that it mainly happens at the very end of life when the pain becomes unbearable. Hunt said the facts simply don’t bear that out.

“What the research actually shows is that most people who choose doctor-assisted suicide do it out of depression or they’re afraid because of their lack of mobility, their quality of life,” he said.

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Hunt said in places such as the Netherlands, physically healthy young people access doctor-assisted suicide over relationships gone bad or the loss of a job.

He said the push for doctor-assisted suicide is especially horrifying for the disabled and those with special needs.

“If you look at the organizations that are trying to stop this, it is primarily led by the disabled community,” Hunt said. “They understand what this is creating in the law. This is creating an entire classification of people that can be killed or choose to be killed.”

“We should be investing in great palliative care and good hospice care because doctor-assisted suicide brings with it a whole parade of terribles that we do not want in our society,” Hunt said.


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