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Dutch Doctors’ Strange New House Calls

Dr Overlijden of Levenseindekliniek
Dutch doctors

A new contest is in order, if it doesn’t already exist. Each year we should recognize and award the person or group who invents the best new Orwellian Phrase. This is a word or words which appear to say one thing but which are in reality their own antonym.

I bruited this idea with a colleague, who was enthusiastic and suggested for a prize the same which Winston received at the closing of 1984. I was sympathetic but thought this lacked charity. But he pointed out that this was the point: the prize is not one which one would wish to win.

Except perhaps by the folks who are responsible for my entry for 2012. These are the Dutch doctors behind Nederlandse Vereniging Voor Een VrijWillig Leveseinde, an organization which will dispatch a van to your very own house filled with doctors itching to kill you. Oh, yes. Leveseinde, you see, means “life’s end” and the docs of NVVE want to be the ones who take you on that journey.

The phrase I enter is NVVE’s “Life’s End Clinic” or Levenseindekliniek. It would not be much of an entry, I admit, except for the addition of “clinic,” an act which abuses that word in a savage manner. Incidentally, this “clinic” (which is not yet fully operational) is a place for those who would rather not have the van park in front of their home and thus frighten the neighbors.

I envision it as the kind of building into which Edward G. Robinson strolled near the end of Soylent Green. Which means we now we have to wonder about Holland’s food supply chain.

NNVE’s front page proudly announces that “there were over 200 applications from people with a euthanasia request at this clinic. There are reportedly twice as many women as men” (“waren er meer dan 200 aanmeldingen van mensen met een euthanasiewens bij deze kliniek. Er meldden zich twee maal zo veel vrouwen aan als mannen.”). For some reason this brings to mind the phrase “Minorities and women strongly encouraged to apply” which appears at the bottom of every academic job announcement.

The leftward news site MSNBC called the Vans of Death “mobile euthanasia units”, which isn’t Orwellian but is at least sufficiently bureaucratic. “Old Jones was heard groaning last night. Dispatch the M.E.U.!”

The reporter claims all sorts of safeguards are in place. The death supplicant must cry not once, not twice, but thrice or more, “Kill me!” Various folks are interviewed. Documents are signed. And then a doctor—a person once thought to be have sworn a duty to preserve life—slips in a needle which kills you. Well, to be fair, it only puts you to sleep. Once your eyes are closed, that’s when the knife comes out and the Dutch “doctor” slits your throat.

Kidding! Actually, knives are far too messy so “a second injection follows, which will stop [your] breathing and heart beat.” A very long-winded way to say that the doctor actively kills you, that he commits homicide, that he purposely deprives you of your life, that the doctor has stepped just this side of being a murderer. That he gives a whole new meaning to “house call.”

MSNBC reports “The teams”—squads of white-coated killers—“would be allowed one procedure a week because of the emotional toll that each visit takes.”

I’m not sure what to think of that. Does it imply that these killers—for this is what they are—have retained some small scrap of humanity? It must be small because it only takes seven short days for their consciences to quiet enough so that they can kill again. Or is the one-scalp-a-week bag limit imposed so that the “teams” don’t begin to love their jobs too well? And don’t you claim that this isn’t possible, for all history tells us that it is not difficult to find individuals who enjoy killing.

Something has to qualify these people. Perhaps a desire to kill those who claim that they want to be killed will be a prerequisite for aspirants who wish to enter the growing specialty of euthanasia. As this field develops, we can imagine classes in Emergency Euthanasia covering topics like what to do when the needle is not at hand: see pillows, suffocation; tall buildings and the lower lumbar shove; the Ty Cobb upper lumber cranial contact.

Update I originally ended this piece with the unfortunate “Remind me not to visit the Netherlands anytime soon.” By this, believe it or not, I meant something along the Soylent Green line. I stupidly thought it implicit and did not add this. I hope it is obvious that I do not disparage all peoples of the Netherlands. I beg all your pardons. I blew it. I am sorry.

I do, however, disparage the doctors who ride around in shiny white (I’m assuming the color) vans willfully killing people. The Soylent Green business comes in from asking: what happens to the bodies?

33 thoughts on “Dutch Doctors’ Strange New House Calls Leave a comment

  1. It’s business, not a perverted “desire”. Once euthanasia is legal, these companies are bound to exist by simple market pressure. And to classify this issue as “Netherlandian” in any sense may well be somewhat racist. I’m sure you will be 100% fine in your visits to that wonderful country.

  2. Apparently three US states have legalized assisted suicide.

    Regarding the infamous Dr. “Death” K. Kevorkian it is reported (from Wiki, for what that’s worth): In a 2010 interview with Sanjay Gupta, Kevorkian stated an objection to the status of assisted suicide in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Only in those three states is assisted suicide legal in the United States, and then only for terminally ill patients. To Gupta, Kevorkian stated, “What difference does it make if someone is terminal? We are all terminal.” In his view, a patient did not have to be terminally ill to be assisted in committing suicide, but did need to be suffering. However, he also said in that same interview that he declined four out of every five assisted suicide requests, on the grounds that the patient needed more treatment or medical records had to be checked.

    Really, how “sacred” do we really & truly think human life is?

    Children’s bedtime stories illustrate just how cheap….for example, the famous story of Hansel & Gretal is about an impoverished family where the parents conspire to get their kids lost in the woods so they, the parent, might not starve. In trying to get home the kids encounter & escape the witch. There are numerous such children’s stories–and they are real-world common occurrences in many countries even today.

    And don’t point to monotheistic religions as a source either — from Jewish genocide in the old testament thru the Crusades, inter-faith Christian persecutions in Europe (why the Pilgrims left there forr the “New World”), Ireland’s Catholic/Protestant feuding, etc. the record shows that monotheistic religions form a justification for murder on a genocidal scale merely for even minor variations of belief — even under the same label/founder figure.

    So, is it really so bad that a tiny fraction of society, suffering with terminal illness & lacking any, and any possible hope for, any kind of “quality of life” might want to painlessly move their inevitible demise along a bit faster, or, that some might want to help end thier suffering?

    Research the historical record and you’ll find this is, in principle, really nothing new either. What is new is technology that makes it easier, less painfull on all involved, and knowledge to screen out those that really do have other alternatives.

  3. Yeah Ken. The problem residing here is that the “option” to be killed is somewhat hidden in a suspicious social web of pressures and MYOP spheres (mind your own problem spheres). Some people fear that old chaps are just given an “option” without actually been given anything, in multiple variations. Perhaps it’s the family that pressures the old person to abandon his/her stubbornness to continue living (and thus perpetuate his/her spendings), perhaps it’s the people who take care of them in an institution. By providing legal status to this “act”, I’m not sure how far we are to enter a “Logan’s run” kind of society.

    I’m not doom-mongering mind you, I’m 99% ignorant on actual facts to make a proper moral decision on the matter. But I do understand the (multiple) arguments against euthanasia.

  4. I always knew you’d turn out to be an apologist for no-holds-barred capitalism!

    There you go misreading me again! I said this was bound to happen, I didn’t even glue any moral judgement on the matter, except to say that your fears of visiting this country are largely exagerated.

  5. “for all history tells us that it is not difficult to find individuals who enjoy killing.”

    Too true. Che Guevara comes to mind. The Nazis had no problem finding people to work at the concentration camps.

  6. “Leveseinde, you see, means “life’s end”
    “leveseinde” means nothing because the correct Dutch word is “Levenseinde”…

    “Remind me not to visit the Netherlands anytime soon.”
    Ridiculous conclusion, Briggs. There’s multiple more chance of me getting killed by hand guns visiting the US than you getting killed by “Levenseinde” in Holland, but that doesn’t stop me.

    Maybe when you’re terminal ill suffering horrendous pain with no hope or any chance of cure you will have more sympathy for people who make their won choice how to end their life and those who are stand besides them.

  7. Mr. Briggs, how else would you suggest one take their own life? I assume you wouldn’t, since you’re Catholic, but not everyone shares your religious convictions. Anyone who has prayed for a quick and painless death for a loved one may see services like those mentioned as an answer to their prayers.

    Death is a sad fact of life. It’s seldom pretty, clean, or dignified like in the movies. When the outcome is inevitable and the process is sure to be long and painful (physically and mentally) I see no reason why someone should be forced to suffer. It’s inhumane.

    A comfortable death requires medicine (in the absence of luck). Different drugs can disable certain aspects of the nervous system. When applied in the correct order a final lethal dose of whichever drug you choose (opiates would be nice) will result in a calm and painless end. Who would you recommend calculate the dosages and administer the drugs?

  8. Just to clarify: I do not consider aging to be part of an “inevitable” process. I meant things like complications from cancer and disease, organ failure, etc…

  9. The problem isn’t so much that people are volunteering to go under this procedure. People have been finding novel ways of offing themselves for years without the active assistance of the medical profession.

    The problem will arise when others, possibly doctors, or others clothed in white, suggest or prescribe the procedure to those who have no desire to slip through the velvet curtain, at least not at the present moment.

  10. There are always three phases to these efforts at intelligent social design.
    1. How can you possibly consider that?!
    2. What could possibly go wrong?
    3. How were we supposed to know?
    + + +
    Once you say, “We will draw the line here and go no further,” you will discover the difference between more-or-less and either-or, for the next generation will find it easier to move the line than the first generation found it to draw a line at all. This much pain will justify the matter, nothing less. Perhaps we will measure that with our pain-o-meter in millisades: 250 msd, no less. Oh, wait. Pain is a “qualia” and in a materialistic sense has no objective existence. Well, perhaps the target will tell us subjectively. After all, she must tell us three times. Well, maybe two times. (If they are in pain it would be cruel to make them wait.) Okay, maybe one time. (What do you mean, gramps, that wasn’t how it was done in your day. That was the 2010s, these are the 2060s. You only have to say it once, as long as you say it three times louder.)

    Really, is 240 msd really that much more bearable? Maybe we can lower the threshold for exigent circumstances… Only in special cases, though. Like if the patient is comatose and the heirs are impatient, or if the government bureau has a budget to meet.

  11. My dear Briggs, many of your readers seem to be concrete thinkers who have trouble understanding humour. They must be a riot at parties.

  12. George, Hans,

    Via MSNBC:

    Netherlands dispatches mobile euthanasia units

    The mobile euthanasia units launched in the Netherlands Thursday may not much resemble Dr. Kevorkian’s death van, but they stirred up nearly as much controversy.

    The program allows teams of doctors and nurses to visit very sick patients whose primary care physicians have refused end their lives, the Guardian reported…

    “They will first give the patient an injection, which will put them into a deep sleep, then a second injection follows, which will stop their breathing and heart beat,” said Walburg De Jong, an advocate of assisted suicide, according to the Guardian.

    The teams would be allowed one procedure a week because of the emotional toll that each visit takes.

    In the Netherlands, each euthanasia case is reported to a commission, made up of a doctor, legal and ethics specialists to make sure the criteria have been followed…

    Currently, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Oregon, Washington and Montana are the only jurisdictions where laws allow assisted suicide, according to the Patients Rights Council.

    Oregon, Washington and Montana!

  13. How do think Jackie Kennedy passed away during the night after her grand goodbye get together with the whole family?

    This is quietly happening without official, legal authorization in many places.

  14. Not many people kick up a fuss due to what happens behind “closed doors”—because we genuinely don’t care or because we are making an effort at being respectful—but bringing death services under the official purview of the government or others is going in the wrong direction. A shortage of organ donations? Well, just raise the quota.

  15. Just as an observation in keeping up and reading your posts for the past few weeks: You should post as a liberal humanist now and again, so I can read Luis speak from a theistic conservative/libertarian position. It always seems his threads are perfectly perpendicular to yours and I am beginning to genuinely wonder if this activity would resolve it or continue it in an awkward sort of way 🙂

  16. But since you started off by asking for examples of new Orwellian phrases, let’s call the government agency that would regulate this activity the Ministry of Life

  17. Now that the objective fact is established that in The Netherlands it is possible to get active euthanasia at home, let me explain the need for an ambulant group.
    When a terminal illness has been established there are several options, the old way (as was done with my mother and father) is that you increase the painkillers until you reach the morfine level after which the patient in a sedated state dies. Some people in Holland don’t want this and usually their own practitioner can administer the terminating drugs in the presence of the next of kin. Now some doctors in the rural bible belt between Zeeland and North Overijssel, don’t want to do this on religious grounds. The option then is to take the terminal patient to a hospice and let her die outside her familiar home. Or let the religoius doctor do the morfine sequence and drag the suffering for weeks. The ambulant group therefore is a replacement of the local practiotioner who doesn’t want to do his job. Animals suffer less than people in the dutch bible belt.

    Wat would Jesus do? He suffered only 18 hours.

  18. @Hal,

    “This is quietly happening without official, legal authorization in many places.”

    Yes…the ‘morphine drip overdose’ is fairly common on terminal patients. They get sent home with a morphine drip prescribed with strict instructions that if they ‘turn the knob’ past ‘X’ point then it could be lethal so ‘don’t do it’.

    Of course the problem is that ‘loving family members’ that are watching their inheritance disappear might be tempted to ‘help’ transition their loved one to a state of not spending $10’s of thousands of dollars per month on medical care.

  19. The Roman slang for poison was “powders of inheritance.”

    Significant that in the Netherlands it takes a “Bible belt” believer to object to killing granny. Otherwise, they are “only following orders.”

    I love the Vrijwillig part. How many generations should we give that? You will notice that per Hans matters have already slid from “just providing information” regarding the “official” path to making houscalls with the Kevorkian machine.

  20. When I watched over terminal-ill people who engage in active dying in their homes or nursing homes, I wondered whether they would choose euthanasia if allowed. Would they see euthanasia as being killed by someone or being helped to die in a dignified manner? It really doesn’t matter what I think, does it?

  21. Should I be stricken with a terminal illness, and having fought until every last ounce of energy exhausted, I only hope that I am allowed to exercise one last act of will; that my cortex be allowed to put and end to the tyranny of the medulla and its robotic machinery.

    When your end comes, may it be peaceful and dignified, may you not suffer the horrors to which you condemn others.

  22. And may the legal machinery set up with such Good Intentions not be shifted over the years to saving money for the government health bureau or to the heirs’ and assigns’ version of what granny “really” would want if she were in her right mind. The careful definitions we use to fence in such things have a way of broadening over time. But what could possibly go worng?

  23. When I first read this, I thought I wanted to be able to make my own decisions about my medical care. But after reading some of the comments, this practice obviously has to stop. I mean… think of the children! I’m pretty sure Levenseindekliniek is close to Dutch for “Ice Cream Cones”. Throw some stickers and an awning on those vans, instead of Pop Goes the Weasel play a sped up version of Taps, and the kids will be lining up for their Sweet Release o’ Death Pops. I guess I’ll have to risk wasting away in some nursing home to prevent those deadly refreshing treats.

    BTW Briggs, does your image of Dr Overlijden qualify for the Orwellian prize?

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