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Dutch euthanasia regulator quits over dementia killings

A Dutch euthanasia regulator has quit her post in protest at the killings of patients suffering from dementia.

Berna van Baarsen, a medical ethicist, said she could not support “a major shift” in the interpretation of her country’s euthanasia law to endorse lethal injections for increasing numbers of dementia patients.

She has now resigned from one of Holland’s five regional assessment committees set up to oversee the provision of euthanasia.

Miss van Baarsen becomes at least the second regulator to quit in just three years and follows Professor Theo Boer who stepped down in 2014 after he warned British parliamentarians not to follow the Dutch example and to vote against Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.

Euthanasia is permissible for mentally incapacitated adult patients under Article 2.2 of the 15-year-old law as long as a patient has left a “written declaration requesting that his life be terminated” in advance.

But Miss van Baarsen, in an interview with Medisch Contact magazine, suggested that lethal injections were increasingly given to patients with fluctuating capacity, leading to a fourfold surge in euthanasia deaths of mental health patients in five years.

“I have seen a major shift in the interpretation of this article in recent years. I cannot support that,” she said.

“I do not believe a written declaration of intent can replace an oral request for incapacitated patients with advanced dementia,” she added. “I find that too short.”

In an interview with Trouw newspaper, Miss van Baarsen said that Article 2.2 applied fairly, for example, to a cancer patient with a wish to die and who slips into a coma.

But she said that dementia was “more erratic and patients often live longer”, with their mental capacity more fluid.

Such patients, she explained, were sometimes able to recognise loved ones in one instance but not on another.

In such situations, she asked: “What is the right moment to grant euthanasia?”

Read more at Catholic Herald. 

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