Monday, September 19, 2011

The dubious existence of "do not euthanize me" cards in Holland

From the "rapid response" section of the online portal to the British Medical Journal :
Fitzpatrick argues against legalization of assisted dying. The argument is partly built on quicksand. Particularly when referring to empirical fact, the water becomes turbid.

When he argues that older, disabled people's lives are under threat when a law would permit euthanasia, then he uncritically cites Lord McColl, who apparently has said: "Many elderly people in the Netherlands are so fearful of euthanasia that they carry cards around with them saying that they do not want it." However, an empirical foundation for this claim is not, and cannot be given. To my knowledge, no such anti-euthanasia cards exist in the Netherlands. What does exist is a living will ( the so-called 'levenswensverklaring') which is distributed by the Christian Dutch Patient Association (NPV). In this living will a person can express his or her wishes regarding end-of-life medical and nursing care in case of incompetence. Amongst others, the person may indicate that active life termination by him or her is considered not to be an acceptable option.

It is not known how many people actually have completed such a living-will. Lord McColl's quote is both incorrect and overly suggestive.

Details about sources from this Facebook group do seem to suggest that the so-called "do not euthanize me!" cards are simply the Dutch version of a "living will", and that the talk of "elderly people living in fear" is overwrought, to say the least.

I'm not 100% sure where the "over 10,000" figure from that Facebook group (and other online locations) comes from. Several sources refer to the "Nightingale alliance", but I can't locate any talk of actual figures anywhere on their website.

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