Leon Voesenek

I have followed with interest the articles on euthanasia in the media and would like to bring to readers' attention what has happened in the Netherlands.

By adopting the narrow definition of euthanasia as "active termination of life upon the patient's request", there were 2,300 instances of euthanasia in the year of the survey, or 1.8% of all deaths.

When, however, to these were added instances of killing patients without request and intentionally shortening the lives of both conscious and unconscious patients, the figures dramatically increase. They include:

• 2,300 instances of euthanasia on request;

• 400 assisted suicide;

• 1,000 of life ending actions without specific request;

• 8,750 patients for whom life-sustaining treatment was withheld without request, either "partly with the purpose" (4750) or "with the explicit purpose" (4000) of shortening life;

• 8,100 cases of morphine overdose "partly with the purpose" (6750) or "with the explicit purpose" (1350) of shortening life;

• 5,800 cases of withdrawing or withholding treatment on explicit request, "partly with the purpose" (4292) or "with the explicit purpose" (1508) of shortening life.

This brings the total to 23,350 instances of doctors intending, by act or omission, to shorten life, lifting the incidence from 1.8% to over 20% of all deaths in the year!

The report also noted that to these totals should be added unspecified numbers of handicapped babies, sick children, psychiatric patients and patients with AIDS whose lives were also terminated by doctors but for all of whom there was no reliable data.

It is estimated that some 25% of deaths of AIDS patients in the Netherlands are now due to euthanasia.

It was further revealed that the guidelines for careful practice were frequently disregarded.

27% of respondents admitted they had killed patients without any request, and 72% reported that, after they had carried out euthanasia, they falsified the death certificate to make it appear that death was due to natural causes.

All this did not happen so very long ago.

On 17 January 1990, the government of the Netherlands appointed a committee to investigate the Medical Practice Concerning Euthanasia. The committee released its report on 10 September 1991.

The report is called the Remmelink Report after Professor J. Remmelink, the Attorney General of the Supreme Court, who chaired the committee.

It is naive to believe that this cannot happen in our beautiful Australia. Remember that the Prime Minister believes in a " sustainable population".

North Tamborine, Qld

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