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article imageDeath on wheels: Dutch vans dispense euthanasia to terminally ill

By Tucker Cummings     Mar 2, 2012 in Health
Euthanasia may be legal in the Netherlands, but that hasn't stopped their mobile euthanasia house call units from stirring up controversy.
The mobile units launched this week, and aim to travel to the homes of terminally ill patients whose doctors have refused to participate in assisted suicide. The services offered by the mobile units are free of charge, but each mobile unit can only assist with one suicide per week. This is due to the emotional strain such a procedure takes on the doctors and nurses who undertake the procedure.
"They will first give the patient an injection, which will put them into a deep sleep, then a second injection follows, which will stop their breathing and heart beat," explained Walburg De Jong, an advocate of assisted suicide.
However, many medical professionals are uncomfortable with the idea of mobile suicide units.
"Euthanasia is a complicated process. It comes from the long-term treatment of a patient based on a relationship of trust," a Royal Dutch Society of Doctors spokesman said. "We have serious doubts whether this can be done by a doctor who is only focused on performing euthanasia."
Euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands in 2002, but not just anyone can apply for a visit. The mobile units will only consider assisting those people who are experiencing intense pain, and can clearly articulate their wish to die. An interview with the patient's primary care physician is also required. While the procedure is legal, doctors can opt not to perform assisted suicides based on their own ethical leanings.
According to the Guardian, 2,300 to 3,100 mercy killings are carried out in the Netherlands annually. It is estimated that this new mobile unit program will eventually perform 1,000 procedures per year.
Last month, US Republican candidate for President Rick Santorum "grossly mischaracterized" the Dutch policy on euthanasia when he stated that euthanasia was the cause of 5 percent of all deaths in the country.
More about Euthanasia, Netherlands, Medicine, santorum
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