According to an anonymous survey published today, 16 New Zealand GPs have explicitly hastened a patient’s death by prescribing, supplying or administering drugs. That represents 4.5 % of 359 respondents.
A similar survey, conducted in 2004, found that 5.6 % of GPs (39 out of 693) intentionally hastened a patient’s death.
“The low response rates and unknown margins of error make it difficult to be precise”, says Professor David Richmond, a spokesperson for Euthanasia-Free NZ. “However, these percentages (5.6 % in 2004, 4.5 % in 2015) are consistent with there being no escalation in the use of euthanasia in New Zealand over the past decade.”
“These studies confirm that the vast majority of doctors work within accepted ethical norms and standards.”
“The data also fails to support the often-heard claim that rates of euthanasia in New Zealand are similar to those in the Netherlands prior to the legalisation of euthanasia there.”
According to the 1991 official report of the Dutch Attorney General on euthanasia in the Netherlands, 54% of all doctors and 67% of GPs had assisted a patient to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide in the previous year. The practice was decriminalised 10 years later.
The Dutch euthanasia rates have since increased exponentially. Euthanasia is increasingly performed on patients suffering from psychological or psychiatric symptoms. Hundreds of people are euthanised each year without their consent, even though the law requires a voluntary request from the patient.
“We should take heed of Dutch professor Theo Boer, a former advocate of legalised euthanasia”, says Professor Richmond. “After reviewing thousands of cases as a member of a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committee, he now warns other countries against following the Dutch example.”