Tuesday 03 August 2021

Doctors should have the right to refuse euthanasia requests: KNMG

voluntary euthanasiaDutch doctors must retain the right to refuse to help their patients to die, the doctors’ federation KNMG has told the NRC.

While most doctors back euthanasia, or assisted dying, they should never be compelled to cooperate, Rutger Jan van der Gaag is quoted as saying. Euthanasia should not be something that can be forced on doctors, he said.

The Dutch voluntary euthanasia society last year relaunched its campaign to have a pill made available to elderly people who wish to end their lives.

Ethical grounds

The idea for such a pill was first launched at the beginning of the 1990s by senior judge and euthanasia campaigner Huib Drion and became known as ‘Drion’s pill’. He said the pill should be issued free of charge to everyone over the age of 70 but his initiative floundered on medical, ethical and legal grounds.

Now the NVVE is having a new attempt and this time says the pills should only be issued by pharmacists or family doctors. ‘This is important to make sure the drugs cannot be used for suicide, abuse or murder,’ the organisation said.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions. For example, the patient must be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.

‘The doctor is currently an important safety catch who makes sure that reasonable alternatives [to euthanasia] are not ignored and that the drugs are not misused,’ Van der Gaag  told the NRC.

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