Dutch Doctors Withholding and Withdrawing Treatment from the Elderly

Published May 14, 2015

Doctors in the Netherlands frequently withhold and withdraw treatment from the elderly, a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics has found.

The researchers say this is not the result of prejudice against the elderly but instead for considerations of comfort and respect and an intention to avoid pointless treatment. Critics say the true purpose of the Netherlands officials’ actions is to save the government money by denying care to the elderly.

The study, titled “Old age and forgoing treatment: A nationwide mortality follow-back study in the Netherlands,” found that forgoing treatment decisions were made for a substantial percentage of patients in the Dutch population and that rates increased steadily with age. The three types of treatment most frequently withheld or withdrawn were artificial hydration/nutrition, medication, and antibiotics, with significant differences among the age groups studied.

Hospitals as Houses of Horrors

“The Netherlands is known for euthanasia,” Twila Brase, president and cofounder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, said. “If euthanasia is an option, then you can become [vulnerable to] those who think you’ve become a burden because you haven’t already availed yourself of euthanasia.”

Any time euthanasia is available, the hospital becomes a place of terror, says Brase.

 “It is no longer a sanctuary, but a house of horrors, where if you go in you might not come out because someone may decide you can’t come out,” Brase said. “Hospitals are becoming a scary place, and not for the usual reasons.”

Coming to the USA?

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the growing unsustainability of Medicare, which are part of a $43 trillion unfunded liability, payroll taxes will no longer be able to cover the costs of Medicare, Brase says.

“Payroll taxes are not even paying for today’s retirees,” Brase said. “2008 was the first year where the amount brought in by payroll taxes was insufficient, so now we are in our seventh year of deficit spending. [We’re] squeezing doctors, paying higher costs, and limiting treatment; the Docfix bill will push [doctors] to ration care if things continue down this road and no one intervenes to institute radical change.”

The push is on for providers to ration care because the money is being rationed, Brase says.

“If we don’t want to go down the road the Netherlands is on, we must repeal Obamacare and create an escape hatch for Medicare,” Brase said.

Denying Care to the Elderly

Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, says the American public does not want a similar problem to take hold in the U.S. health care system. The way government-centered health care systems, such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom and Canada’s universal health care system, reduce costs is by denying care to the elderly, Pipes says.

The Dutch, British, and Canadian governments make decisions about how long people should live and how much care they should get, Pipes says. Government bureaucrats end up making decisions for families.

“I’m really worried that unless we repeal and replace Obamacare, we’re going to be in a situation of ultimately getting a single-payer, universal health care system where the long-term survival of our elderly will be at the discretion of government, not doctors, patients, and families,” Pipes said.

Patient’s Consent Deemed Essential

Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government, says the first question he would ask is: Did the patient want that to happen?

“If not, then they’re murdering these people,” Motley said. “This is why I don’t want state officials working on behalf of the government to make life-ending decisions for me or anyone else without the benefit of the consent of the people whose lives they are ending.”

Motley says these policies are similar to state-mandated and state-encouraged abortion, but on the other end of life.

“And that’s why governments shouldn’t be in the health care business,” Motley said. “I think Sarah Palin was correct—the Netherland is the future of Obamacare.”

Doctors’ Default Position Changing

It is extremely important to respect the liberty of patients to make choices regarding their medical care and the aggressiveness with which they want to fight for their lives, says Gennady Stolyarov, editor-in-chief of The Rational Argumentator.

“What is disturbing about the findings of this study is that withholding treatment from certain patients—particularly the elderly—appears to be becoming a default decision by doctors in many cases, rather than a decision deliberately opted into by patients,” Stolyarov said. “The culture of medicine should always be guided by the premise that taking action to save life is the default, and only the patient should be able to make a different decision.”

This is the new bioethics, says Dr. John Dale Dunn, an emergency physician and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

“When you adopt a socialist value system, you stop thinking about the value of the individual and start thinking about the abstract value of what’s best for the collective.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.