This is disturbing on a number of fronts. Firstly, claims that the doctor effectively euthanased a patient, secondly, that his actions were taken without consent. Thirdly, that he took no care to provide pain relief and also that the Medical Board has not sought to de-register him but, rather, to simply move his work away from acute care situations. It is also alleged that this was not an isolated case for this doctor.
The report says that the doctor spoke to the patient in the presence of family members and outlined the fact that the patient's vital organs were shutting down and that death was but a few days away. She had an acute lung condition.
According to the relatives, he then offered three options: One: turn off the respirator and die immediately; two, reduce the flow of air via the respirator to room pressure which would result in a coma and then bring about death; or, three keep the status quo and die in a few days.
It must be said that all of these options are valid and fall legitimately to the decision (choice) of the patient who was a) clearly dying and b) according to the report lucid and capable of making such a decision. However, as the report says, she didn't get to choose an option.
Later that evening the doctor in question turned down the flow of the respirator, a nurse later noticed this and restored the original flow, however, it was too late and the patient clearly died prematurely at the action of the doctor and in some pain and distress. (NB: had the patient consented and such consent noted, pain relief would have been appropriately administered.)
The observation that 'choice' was denied this patient concurs with the reality in The Netherlands and Belgium in respect to the numbers of patients dying by euthanasia without request or consent. had the patient concerned consented to any of the three options presented, this would not have been a case of euthanasia. What makes it a euthanasia case is that the doctor intended the patient's death by his actions and that the death occurred as a result.
In a study of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium researchers noted that 53% of all euthanasia deaths are not reported. As Alex Schadenberg points out, it is likely that at least some of these deaths were 'iffy' cases; that is: cases where the doctor wasn't sure if his or her actions were, in fact, euthanasia or, perhaps, cases such as this one where death was imminent anyway.
This case, at least by the reports, is a case of malpractice and euthanasia. It is legitimate to ask the question: if euthanasia & assisted suicide were legalized, what safeguards would there be that would be robust enough to catch this kind of behaviour? The answer is: none.
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