In Medisch Contact 65, nr. 33-34/1612-1615 (the weekly NewsMagazine of the Royal Dutch Medical Association, KNMG) two senior policy advisors of the KNMG (Gert van Dijk and Eric van Wijlick)published the results of their review and analyis of the three most recent Annual Reports of the Euthanasia Review Committee (2007/2008/2009).
They generally conclude that Dutch doctors do perform euthanasia in a very carefull way: since the installation of the Committees in 1998, 23.268 reported cases were reviewed, of which only 50 labelled as “not carefull”. Going deeper into the figures of the last three years, the cases that did not comply with the due care criteria of the law (22 out of 7487 reported cases: less then 0,3%) can be categorised as follows:
- criterium unbearable suffering: 2 cases, both with unconscious patients (the postulate is that an unconscious patient is not suffering)
- criterium independent consultation: in 8 cases the consulting doctor could not be called “independent”, being either family, or formerly involved in the treatment of the patient; in 2 cases there was no consultation done and in 1 case the time span between consultation and execution of the euthanasia was too long (5 month’s)
- criterium execution of the euthanasia: 9 cases, of which 5 with an application of too low doses (according to the protocol) of the sleep inducing drug (apparently not resulting in non-coma), and in 4 others there were procedural problems
- criterium alternative possibilities: this concerned one case only, where the euthanising doctor did not discuss alternatives (suggested by the consulting doctor – although not lenghtening the life very much) with the patient, because he knew this patient would not want them.
Another way to look at the seriousness of the “violations” is possible now, since the Review Committee has given evidence for the first time in the 2009 Annual Report about the follow up of those cases by the officials: the Public Prosecutor (PP) and the Helth Inspector (HI).
Of the 9 cases reported to be “uncarefull” the PP did give a report in 7 cases (2 were not yet received). All 7 cases were dropped, 3 of them conditionally. The HI reported back on 8 out of the 9 (1 not yet received), all 8 doctors were interviewed personally by the HI, 3 of them were given an admonition.
For the (Dutch – English translation available later this year) Annual Report 2009, click here.