Advertisement

Euthanasia Debate

July 24, 1987

Congratulations to Allan Parachini on his expose of legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands ("The Netherlands Debates the Legal Limits of Euthanasia," July 5). Opponents of euthanasia in this country make frequent reference to the dangers of the "slippery slope" that would be created by legalization, while advocates dismiss the slippery-slope argument as purely theoretical, as nothing more than a scare tactic of fanatical right-to-life groups.

The Netherlands are presently doing the rest of the world the favor of demonstrating the reality of that slippery slope. What began not long ago as something supposedly for terminally ill patients in great pain has now evolved to euthanasia on demand, including of minors without parental consent and physically healthy patients with mental afflictions. (What psychiatrist is competent enough to determine competence in a patient requesting to be killed?)

Physicians (in the Netherlands) who kill their patients often falsify the death certificates as though death had occurred by natural causes. What better setup for abuse could be imagined? Even some of the most prominent euthanasists there are beginning to express misgivings about the efficacy of the law in preventing future abuses, such as economic pressure on the elderly to "voluntarily" requests to be killed, economic and social pressure toward involuntary euthanasia of demented adults and handicapped children at the request of their families, pressure to obtain more organs for transplantation etc.

If Dr. Pieter Admiraal himself concedes that such fears for the future haunt him and that there seems to be "no way to retreat from what has developed, much less escape the future," then we in the United States will be wise to keep our legislative status quo in this regard as we await the outcome of the Netherlands' drastic social experiment.

D. ALAN SHEWMON MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatric Neurology

UCLA School of Medicine

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|