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Docs Switch Tactics to Avoid Presence at Patient’s Death

It’s called palliative sedation and is used rarely to relieve pain. When used properly, the patient eventually succumbs to his/her disease. The intent is to relieve suffering, not kill the patient.

In a new twist, a study of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands finds that the number of deaths from deep sedation is increasing. When used improperly, the patient eventually dies from dehydration instead of the underlying illness. So, there is, in this circumstance, a clear intent to kill the patient.

Why would physicians in the Netherlands turn to this method when it is legal and quicker to simply inject the patient with a lethal substance? Noted author and scholar Wesley J. Smith states the following:

“Demonstrating the subversive nature of the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement on proper medical care, Dutch doctors are switching from lethally injecting patients to sedating them into a permanent coma so they die by dehydration over a period of days or weeks….. I suspect that Dutch doctors are switching euthanasia methods because in formal euthanasia, they have to be present at the bedside at death.” With euthanasia “they watch as the killing actions they take terminate life. With terminal sedation, they don’t have to be present….This intentional co-opting of a proper palliative measure, rarely needed, at the very end of life — known as palliative sedation — in which disease causes death, not dehydration, is scandalous.”

In Vermont and California, there are legislative efforts to sanction palliative sedation intended to cause the death of the patient in “stealth” bills advertised as hospice promotion. This follows failed efforts in both states to directly legalize assisted suicide. How clever they are — and how ever watchful we must be.

Barbara Lyons

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