Killing without consent: Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Henk Reitsema has been working with L’Abri Fellowship in the Netherlands for 16 years. He decided to become actively involved with the anti-euthanasia lobby after his grandfather was killed, without consent, in a Dutch old people’s home by morphine overdose.
Henk’s grandfather, living in a long term care facility after a stroke, had contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which would have naturally taken his life within a few years. He also had developed a painful thrombosis in his leg, so he asked the physician in the nursing home for help with the pain.
Instead of providing pain medication, the doctor quietly ordered nurses to administer overdoses of morphine and withhold food and water. Rather than providing healing or comfort, and without consulting Grandfather Reitsema or his loved ones, this doctor ended the life of Grandfather Reitsema.
A relative stumbled upon the plan, but it was too late. The day before he died, she tried to give him water, but the nurse didn’t allow it. The family then realized that the nursing home was euthanizing Grandfather Reitsema. The family tried to reverse what had happened, but he soon died from pneumonia, which is a common result of heavy morphine dosing.
Unfortunately, most Dutch people believe that euthanasia is always a matter of consent, but as in this case, some doctors have been making the decision single-handedly. Even though Dutch politicians and health officials emphasize that there is a system designed to ensure patient autonomy, this is not the practice.
Dutch medical surveys reveal that in many cases where doctors intervened to hasten death, the patient did not give permission.
Not even Henk’s grandmother had given any indication that it was okay for her husband to be euthanized. Henk explains, “One never would have imagined him not wanting to hold on to life. He respected the fact that God had given him life.”