A Good Death
Ik kreeg een mailtje met een verwijzing naar een essay over het Groningen Protocol. Ik heb het gelezen, er over nagedacht en een antwoord geformuleerd. In het Engels, voor de verandering.
I was forwarded an essay on the Groningen Protocol by Gerard Van der Leun, who despite his Dutch sounding surname seems to be American. It's a lenghty article by a Seattle physician, which brings to light some interesting points but has flaws as well.
When an essay on the latest development in Dutch euthanasia practices opens with references to nazi-Germany, it was pretty easy to dismiss it forthright as yet more uninformed religious ranting. However, it seems that Dr. Bob - though clearly a religious man - has seriously pondered the ramifications of Groningen University Hospital's protocol.
Still, the essay is not an objective weighing of pros and cons. It doesn't even discuss why there would be a need for such guidelines. The doctor expresses understandable fears that minor steps in itself do not seem evil, but slowly pave the road to indiscriminate medical murder.
The doctor clearly considers euthanasia evil in all cases and he has some startingly un-Hippocratic ideas about "a need for suffering".
With his lenghty introduction of euthanasia ideas and practices in interbellum Germany, dr. Bob cleverly and surreptitiously links the modern Dutch euthanasia with shameful extermination on racial and medical grounds.
After a short introduction on the Groningen Protocol - the only direct citation of the actual text I've seen- he does it again, by very matter of factly mentioning: "...it is merely a logical extension of a philosophy of medicine widely practiced and condoned in the Netherlands for many years, much as it was in Germany between world wars."
However hard dr. Bob searches for a non-existent natural progression of nazi-practices into modern Dutch euthanasia, there is no such link.
If nazi's weren't enough, dr. Bob brings on a more recent murderous organisation to illustrate what Dutch physicians must be like: the Iraqi Baathist party. He uses them to illustrate an apparant duality: Dutch doctors are sworn to alleviate suffering on the one side, yet have no qualms about killing patients on the other. He calls this "The power of detachment and intellectualization".
Dr. Bob writes" "Non-medical people observing surgery are invariably squeamish, personalizing the experience and often repulsed by the apparent trauma to the patient. Physicians overcome this natural response by detaching themselves from the personal, and transforming the experience into a study in technique, stepwise logical processes, and fascination with disease and anatomy."
Though the above is quite true, I feel he disqualifies himself with the lines that follow: "It is therefore a relatively small step with such training to turn even killing into another process to be mastered."
It is obvious that he has no idea how Dutch euthanasia practices came into being. They were not copied straight out of German textbooks from the 1930's and 1940's. He has clearly no idea about the pragmatism that pervades Dutch society as a whole.
Euthanasia is Greek for "a good death". However incomprehensible it seems to most foreigners, at the core of Dutch euthanasia practices is a genuine desire to do good - even if that means alleviate suffering in extremis.
Eduard Verhagen, the paediatrician who launched the initiative that led to the Groningen Protocol: "This is a subject that nobody likes to acknowledge, let alone discuss."
Much has been said about the Groningen Protocol, but it has hardly been discussed at all. And sadly, after some terribly misinformed articles and columns in the American conservative press, there is little chance of this now.
Dr. Bob thinks that it's good to suffer. He writes: "What are the chances that Dutch doctors will find a cure for the late stage cancer or early childhood disease, when they now so quickly and "compassionately" dispense of their sufferers with a lethal injection?"
There is no way a doctor can gain any serious applicable medical knowledge from the cases the Groningen Protocol governs.
I could very easily link such ideas to nazi-Germany as well: it was exactly this desire - no clear medical objective, only medical curiousity - that led to thousands of Auschwitz inmates being subjected to experiments, nearly all resulting in death.
But that would be too easy and dismiss genuine concerns of opponents to euthanasia. But this is what happens when you drag dr. Mengele into the discussion.
Dr. Bob continues: "Who will teach us patience, compassion, unselfish love, endurance, tenderness, and tolerance, if not those who provide us with the opportunity through their suffering, or mental or physical disability? These are character traits not easily learned, though enormously beneficial to society as well as individuals. How will we learn them if we liquidate our teachers?"
We are not talking about children that have anything to teach us, other than new depths of human pain and misery. Who in their right mind would let their child suffer unbearably to satisfy such irrational perverse nobility?
In The Netherlands, the majority would not.