Dutch doctors prefer “terminal sedation” to lethal medications, according to a survey by Nijmegan University. Under this system, all treatment, food and water are withheld from heavily sedated patients until they die. Its detractors describe it as “slow euthanasia” since the intention of the doctor is to kill the patient.
Pain control expert Bernardus Crul said that better care for the dying in the Netherlands and advances in pain control had now made terminal sedation a viable alternative. “Most doctors no longer see euthanasia as a medical necessity for fighting unbearable suffering and that the solution of terminal sedation is suitable for that,” he told the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting Network.
The idea had a frosty reception in Australia from both sides of the debate. Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke said that it put doctors in control of dying rather than patients. “No one has every come to my [assisted suicide] workshops and said I want to spend five days dying slowly,” he told The Age. The president of New South Wales Doctors for Life Catherine Lennon said that it was just another form of euthanasia and that patients should beware of “unethical doctors” who might be willing to use it.
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