Pressure on patients is cause for concern: euthanasia expert

Bankruptcies fall sharply in 2015 first half

Around one in five patients who choose euthanasia in the Netherlands acts under pressure from family members, according to a leading expert on the ethics of assisted dying. Professor Theo Boer based the estimate on his experience of nine years as a member of one of five review committees that assess every euthanasia case, helping to judge around 4,000 case files. Boer also voiced concern about the steady rise in the number of people who choose euthanasia and assisted suicide, which has trebled from around 1,800 in the early years to 4,829 in 2013. Although the vast majority of requests still come from terminally ill cancer patients, the parameters have gradually widened to take in growing numbers of people with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and psychiatric illness. Problem Last month the paediatric association NVK called for the minimum age of 12 to be scrapped, arguing that some terminally ill children of 10 and 11 are capable of deciding that they want to die. (The NVK's comments were made after Boer spoke to 'What surprises me is that nobody is making any serious attempt to treat this as a problem,' said Boer, who teaches ethics at Groningen's Protestant Theological University. 'It seems inarguable to me that the law has led to a rise in incidences.' Asked how often he saw evidence of pressure from the family, he said: 'It's hard to say, but at a rough estimate I would say the family is a factor with one in five patients. The doctor doesn't want to put it in the dossier; you need to read between the lines. 'Sometimes it's the family who go to the doctor. Other times it's the patient saying they don't want their family to suffer. And you hear anecdotally of families saying: "Mum, there's always euthanasia".' Criteria The Netherlands' euthanasia law, which dates from 2001, gives doctors who help their patients to die protection from prosecution as long as they meet specific criteria. The patient must request euthanasia in person and convince the doctor that they have considered their decision thoroughly. The doctor must be satisfied that the patient's suffering is unbearable and without prospect of relief, and that there is no alternative treatment to alleviate their pain. The Dutch medics' federation KNMG published a survey last December which found that 70% of doctors had experienced pressure, while 64% felt it had increased in recent years. The survey did not ask where the pressure came from. KNMG policy officer Erik van Wijlick said: 'We've been aware since the early 1990s that pressure is an issue. It would be helpful to do some research into what kind of pressure there is and where it comes from.' Full article on euthanasia in the Netherlands   More >

Nos airtime student gets 2.5 years

Bankruptcies fall sharply in 2015 first half Tarik Z, the 20-year-old science student who forced his way into the Nos television studios with a fake gun at the end of January was jailed for 2.5 years, half suspended, on Friday. The public prosecution office had asked for a 4-year jail term, one suspended. Z forced his way into the Nos studios armed with a fake gun and took a security guard hostage. The youth, who gave himself up when ordered to by police, had demanded access to airtime on the 20.00 hours news bulletin. [banner] The Nos studios were evacuated for several hours as police searched the building after the youngster was overpowered. The actual incident lasted around 10 minutes. During a procedural hearing in May, Z said he wanted the airtime to warn the population about 'the foundations of the current monetary system' and about 'large-scale manipulation by the Nos'.  More >

Smartphone subscription to become a debt

Bankruptcies fall sharply in 2015 first half Expensive smartphone subscriptions are to be recorded in the national debt register BKR, the government has decided, according to the AD on Friday. The decision has been taken following a ruling by the High Court in June 2014 that the law on financial supervision should be extended to cover the telecom sector. The government has now decided to follow the ruling, the AD reports. 'The approach to debt is an important priority for the cabinet,' finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told parliament. [banner] Telecom firms KPN, T-Mobile and Vodafone will have to check if clients are able to pay for their subscription. In addition, all subscriptions above €250 will be recorded in the BKR. More aware Family spending body Nibud is pleased with the decision. 'The Dutch will be made more aware that an expensive mobile subscription is a loan,' Garbriëlle Bettonville told the AD. 'They will be better able to see what they are doing with their money.' The telecom companies are 'not amused', calling the move disproportional for the sector and also for millions of Dutch people, the paper says. According to Vodafone, the consequences for providers will be 'much greater than Dijsselbloem is suggesting, requiring a number of costly adjustments to the current form of subscription'. The paper does not say when the new ruling will come into effect.  More >

V&D scraps wage reduction; 400 job losses

Bankruptcies fall sharply in 2015 first half Department store V&D has agreed with unions not to reduce the wages of non-union staff, but 400 jobs will go. The decision to cut non-union staff wages was ruled out in a court case brought by the FNV and CNV unions in February. V&D said at the time it would appeal the ruling but remain in negotiations with the unions. Friday's decision is the result of those negotiations. [banner] The reorganisation will see 400 of the 10,000 jobs go. Which jobs are to be scrapped is not yet clear, according to broadcaster Nos. The 400 job losses are part of a package aimed at saving €10m on personnel costs. Social plan In March, the company and the unions reached agreement on a social plan for redundant workers. That plan consists of an acceptable redundancy payment, a budget of €3,500 for each person involved for retraining and help in finding other work, and €500 for legal assistance. V&D was saved from bankruptcy in February when it made an agreement with the owners of most of its 63 properties to temporarily reduce the rent. It is now in talks with its landlords on a long-term solution. The company made a loss in both 2012 and 2013 and in February announced that it lost a further €49m in 2014.  More >

The heatwave is official

Bankruptcies fall sharply in 2015 first half The temperature at national weather centre De Bilt near Hilversum was over 25 degrees Celsius at 12 noon on Friday, making the heatwave official. To be classified as a heatwave, the temperature must be over 25 degrees for five consecutive days, with three of them over 30 degrees. However, the high temperatures are unlikely to break the record set in 1944 in the Gelderland town of Warnsveld when the mercury reached 38.6 degrees, weather forecasters say. On Thursday it reached 38.2 degrees in Maastricht, but although it will remain hot over the weekend, temperatures are not expected to exceed 37 degrees. [banner] Thursday night's thunderstorms led to a number of fires around the country. These were mainly in farm houses and buildings following lightening strikes. Extra busy Traffic management organisation Rijkswaterstaat says roads will be extra busy over the weekend, with people heading off on holiday and to Utrecht for the start of the Tour de France on Sunday. Trains around Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht are also likely to be packed because Dutch railway company NS has further reduced services, worried that tracks may buckle in the heat. More thunderstorms are forecast for Friday and Saturday. From Sunday temperatures will be between 25 and 27 degrees with a chance of showers, according to the KNMI weather centre.    More >