Saturday, March 12, 2005

Clarification of age limits in Dutch Euthanasia Law

The Dutch euthanasia statute does not apply to children under the age of 12 as I reported in a previous post. However in my last post on the essay in the NEJM, I mention that it doesn't apply to children 16 or younger. I gave that age because that is the age stated in the NEJM article.

The actual law states that, although not applying to children under 12, those between 12 and 16 can be euthanized if their parents and the patient agree. If the patient is incapable of agreeing than the statute doesn't apply to children below 16 as stated in NEJM.

Hence the confusion: for children incapable of giving their own consent (as are the infants described in the NEJM article) the cut-off age of 16 applies. The statute doesn't apply for any children under the age of 12 and no combination of consents of parent and patient would matter.

Does this help?

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Blogger Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

Yes, it does.

However, what continues to bother me is that this protocol is even in play at all.

Perhaps the lesson we can take from this is that the subject is fraught with unintended consequences.

It's interesting me that there seem to be different takes on this depending on the age of the patient being discussed.

On the one end of the spectrum, how do we respect the sanctity of life and the importance of the parents' wishes regarding their child?

In the middle, there is the Schiavo case, which highlights the importance of a living will, and such other legal mechanisms which would ensure that one's wishes are carried out.

At the far end would be that, for many seniors, most of the expense of their care comes in the last few weeks (months?) of life.

There seem to be no easy answers.

OTOH, I appreciate that you put this on the table.

March 14, 2005 4:01 PM  
Blogger Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

And now it appears that we (as in the US) have started down that slippery slope, as well.

Via Captains Quarters (, we learn that the little (5 month old) Texas boy who died today was the victim of a state law which allows a provider (in this case, the hospital) to effectively euthenize a child over the express wishes of the parent.

This surpasses even the Groningen Protocol.

Are we concerned yet?

March 15, 2005 9:32 PM  

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