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Friday 19 December  
Rick Santorum making claims about Dutch euthanasia
Belinda van Steijn's picture
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nine myths about euthanasia in the Netherlands

Published on : 29 February 2012 - 4:46pm | By Belinda van Steijn (Photo: ThinkProgress)
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The Dutch law allowing euthanasia under certain sharply-defined circumstances often raises eyebrows abroad. And it gives rise to countless unfounded allegations.

The criticism is often made in foreign media that euthanasia is too easy in the Netherlands. The elderly are said to fear for their lives in Dutch hospitals. A Dutch clinic where people tired of living can have their lives terminated is apparently going to open its doors soon. These of course are bogus reports, but what exactly is the real state of play?

Myth 1: Euthanasia is really easy is in the Netherlands (as claimed by Lifenews)

In April it will be a decade since the Dutch law allowing doctors to perform euthanasia was passed. A patient is required to ask for the procedure specifically and be the victim of unbearable suffering – having an incurable disease, for example – or of hopeless psychological problems. All cases of euthanasia have to be registered with special review committees.

Performing euthanasia and assisting suicide are in principle illegal, with a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. The procedure is only allowed if the doctor has fulfilled the legal requirements.

Myth 2: Elderly Dutch people prefer to go to hospitals abroad for fear of being murdered by doctors in hospitals in the Netherlands

Dutch hospitals are not allowed to end people’s lives. Dutch people do sometimes go abroad for treatment but this is to avoid being put on a waiting list and get certain operations or treatments more quickly.

Myth 3: Children can use euthanasia to get rid of their elderly parents in order to get their hands on the inheritance

Children have no authority whatsoever concerning the ending of their parents’ lives. One can only ask for one's own euthanasia. Euthanasia is only allowed when people of sound mind have themselves more than once let it be known that they do not wish to continue living under certain circumstances. The request has to be made verbally and in writing to a doctor who has a professional relationship to the patient.

It has to be proven that it’s a case of hopeless suffering. Someone suffering from dementia can no longer request euthanasia since he or she is no longer of sound mind. People can make a living will requesting euthanasia in certain circumstances before they become demented. Relatives can oversee the performance of their parents’ living wills.

Myth 4: A Dutch clinic is to open where you can end your life

Right to Die-NL (NVVE) is due to launch an ‘end-of-life’ clinic for assisted suicides in the second half of 2012. But you can't simply check in when you're feeling a bit down. Patients can make use of the facility only if they fulfil the conditions specified by the euthanasia law but their doctors refuse to carry out the procedure.

After requesting admission to the clinic, patients are first screened and then interviewed by a doctor and nurse. They look into whether or not the conditions of the law have been met and a relationship of trust with the patient is then built up. If a choice for euthanasia is made, the possibility of the patient ending their life at home will first be explored. If that is not possible, the patient will be able to go to the end-of-life clinic. The clinic is operated by the NVVE and as such is recognised by the Dutch authorities.

Myth 5: One telephone call and a mobile team turns up to end your life
(as claimed by Czech TV and Al-Yaum)

From 1 March 2012, six mobile teams from the NVVE, each comprising a doctor and a nurse, will be available to visit patients on request. But they don't simply turn up and kill the patient. The teams can be contacted when a family doctor is unable or unwilling to perform euthanasia or assist suicide despite the fact that the patient fulfils the conditions of the law. A independent consultant will be brought in to make the legal position absolutely clear. Euthanasia can then take place in the home.

Myth 6: Dutch people go around with wristbands saying they don’t want to be euthanised

This allegation was made recently by US Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. Elderly Dutch people, he claimed, had wristbands with the text, “No euthanasia please”, on them. The Washington Post checked up on the facts and was able to reassure the American public. The claim was totally false. What had Mr Santorum heard?

He must have heard that the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Dordrecht has implemented a system using wristbands. Patients who do not wish to be resuscitated, should they lapse into a life-threatening situation, get a red band. Doctors are able to see in an instant the patients who do not wish to be reanimated.

Myth 7: Ten percent of Dutch deaths are down to euthanasia and many people are forced into it (another quote from Mr Santorum)

In 2010, 136,058 people died in the Netherlands, which has a population of over 16.5 million. In that year, there were 3,136 reported cases of euthanasia. That is not 10 but 2.3 percent. The real figure could be slightly higher as the most recent research based on figures from 2007 shows that about 80 percent of euthanasia cases are reported. Forced euthanasia is not permitted in the Netherlands.

Myth 8: Everyone can come to the Netherlands in order to have their life terminated

That is what Chinese website alleged. But in order to be eligible for euthanasia, people have to be within Dutch jurisdiction. Foreigners cannot simply come to the Netherlands and have euthanasia carried out. The legal procedure requires that the patient's request is voluntary and well-considered, and that the patient is suffering unbearably and is without any chance of recovery. This is to be judged by the patient's regular doctor.

Myth 9: Parents can get rid of their handicapped child

This is not considered euthanasia, since very young, severely disabled children, or babies with hardly a chance of survival, cannot ask for an end to their lives, or give permission for it. But this form of merciful death does exist, and is referred to as 'life-ending action without the express wish of the patient'. Doctors and parents decide jointly not to begin medical treatment, or to discontinue one, if it is deemed pointless, or because the situation lacks any hope of improvement.

Children aged between 12 and 16 can decide that they want euthanasia, but they still need the approval of their parents or carers. Teenagers aged 16 and 17 are considered adult enough to take the decision on their own.





Dave 28 March 2013 - 10:07pm / United States

I think this author needs to review what the word "myth" means. You could say some of these items are 'myths' but most are actually true, even by the author's own reporting, albeit not perhaps as hyperbolic or extreme as the myth that is allegedly being debunked.

Can non Dutch people come to the Netherlands to commit suicide? The short answer is 'yes'. The long answer shows the details about how that 'yes' can take place, so that's not a myth.

Can parents get rid of their handicapped child? The short answer is 'yes'. The author can play with words about what mercy killing is versus euthanasia, what is handicapped versus terminally ill, but this is also not a myth.

So let's be honest and admit that many of these are not myths but are truths that the Dutch people have accepted and allowed in their culture.

Whether Santorum spoke of 10% or if he more accurately said 3%, does it really matter? Even 1 could be considered horrible, and that was likely his point though I never heard his assertion live. I am trusting this author for what Santorum said, and that is obviously a risky assumption :-/

Anonymous 31 January 2013 - 8:21am / Canada

Why did Canadians die to save Dutch people in WWii who were to become as evil as German nazis? Had they known the Dutch would become nazis all on their own, they would have left the Dutch to eat tulip bulbs.

If the Dutch can't be bothered to help save the weak of their country, the world shouldn't help the Dutch strong. The Dutch can't survive without the rest of the world making them food and products. They are no different than a disabled or elderly person who can't make his own food or create anything. The attitude of euthanasia promoters is kill people when they can't cook dinner or clean a tub so maybe Dutch people who can't make cars shouldn't be sold cars unless they can fix them, shouldn't be allowed computers unless they can repair them, shouldn't e be allowed on a plane traveling to Canada unless they can fly a plane. Since when is physical or mental incompetence at tasks a reason to kill people.

As a disabled person, I am tired of rich lazy people who want to dispose of people they don't want to exist because they only want beautiful women around who will cook, clean and spread their legs for them -- when they themselves can't or never cook, clean or spread theirs in submission, enough already. The gall of people who are too lazy to do something wanting people who can't do something die,

I don't want Dutch people who murder their elderly and sick in my country. Stay home. I don't like nazis. I'm sick of Muslim murderers. And I am sick of the Dutch masquerading mass murder as mercy, and having the gall to justify their ignorance and foolishness and just plain evilness as this article does.

When the Dutch .. And Moslems ... And any other mass murderiing people figure right from wrong, they are welcome here. But if you haven't got a clue, stay home, read the bible, pray to God until you figure out the truth about your lies. look in the mirror if you believe in euthanasia - and realize you don't look or are aNy better than those you want to kill off. When I read about the euthanasia legalizes, my reaction is they should be given the death penalty for mass murder.

Willem Jan Smit 3 March 2013 - 9:33am / Canada - Netherlands

Dear ignorant Christian,

You are sick and might find a broader view on life outside of your beloved bible.
Unfortunately, due to a large portion of blinded Christians in Canada, my good friend is not able to end her life though she is suffering immensely. Perhaps one day you will get some first hand experience at what your god has in store for lovely old ladies.

Thanks for the paratroopers.


The Dutch Canadian happily married gay man.

Trevor 17 April 2014 - 12:07am / Canada

Dear Friend,

I would like to formally apologize on behalf of my fellow christian, no matter how conservative he is. I can understand your view point oh euthanasia and I for the most part of it, agree. I believe that God gave us free will to use, and we shouldn't be afraid to exercise the right to use it. The bible tell us to care for one another. If one is suffering so much that all they look forward too is death, a country should give them the choice to die. If the international community agrees that every human being has the right to live, we should also have the right to die.

Your welcome for the paratroopers


The Canadian Christian who is Liberal

Anna Dranova 23 March 2012 - 6:06pm / USA

In response to Santorum's ridiculous, insulting assertions about euthanasia in The Netherlands, my seventeen-year-old son has made wristbands with the words: "IF SANTORUM IS ELECTED, EUTHANIZE ME!" How can he reach Dutch citizens who would want his wristbands?

Emiel Mostert 2 March 2012 - 12:42pm / netherlands

I am disgusted by the words of Santorum; it is a perfect example of how American citizens are misled about facts on cultures in other nations. My mother was in a home for 13 years after a stroke, she was disabled and not capable of anything. She asked for euthanasia all these years, she had put it in writing in an official document before she was paralysed, at forehand. But where ever I went to get permission, it was denied for the reason that ‘she did not suffer’. She suffered very much as she was a woman who lived a life of independency and travelled the world. No more travels, in diapers, stuck to a tiny room, in a wheelchair she could not move by herself, depending on the goodwill of the nurses or visitors for everything. The Dutch laws on euthanasia have improved since my mother passed away two years ago; or should I say the doctors dare to trust the law more. The world should take Dutch law, in this matter, as an example to stop endless and inhuman suffering. Inhuman is the American law, where they don’t treat people unless they have money. They send their soldiers to silly wars and let them return home physically and mentally crippled by the thousands and never to look at them again in gratitude or compassion. I have seen them in the streets of the USA; being homeless tramps and still proud of their purple hearts. Santorum your ‘krankjorum’; you can look up the translation yourself.

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