(This is a continuing post on the recent theme of the assisted dying bill, click on ASSISTED SUICIDE in the TAG CLOUD for other posts on this subject).
Professor Theo Boer who originally was an advocate of assisted dying has now changed his view after seeing the policy develop after legislation was introduced in the Netherlands in 1967. What started as a compassionate approach to terminal illness with the active consent of patients and doctors, has now become “normal practice” for many elderly and chronically ill people.
What began as a response to a few exceptional cases has increased by 15% every year since 2008 and may well reach 6,000 deaths this year. Nearly 1 in 7 deaths are at the hands of doctors in the Netherlands.
A new medical term has now emerged – “terminal sedation” where patients are sedated and then dehydrated and starved to death. This has been advocated in the UK in the “Liverpool Pathway” – a term which has now been withdrawn. This approach accounts for 12% of all deaths in the Netherlands, but many people who die this way are not included in the assisted dying figures.
In Belgium the figures are even higher where 1 in 5 of all deaths are ‘helped’ by doctors.
The slippery slope looks to be getting slipperier and slipperier.
This could be the easy answer to the NHS being overwhelmed by elderly patients. It would be a lot cheaper than prolonging “unwanted” lives. The pensions industry would have a strategic solution to unpredicted longer lives. Who knows, annuities might even increase again if life expectancy starts to fall.
The economic argument for shortening older people’s lives is getting stronger all the time, though nobody dare advance that case in speeches in the House of Lords debates on assisted dying. Meanwhile care and compassion for the frail and vulnerable is talked about frequently in a heart on your sleeve way ——- but seldom acted upon.