Saturday, March 10, 2012

Euthanasia on wheels

Dutch Prince Johan Friso, 43-year-old second son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, suffered severe brain damage in an avalanche while skiing in Austria, and is in a coma. He has been transferred to Wellington Hospital in London.

Doctors say he may never emerge from his coma. If he does regain consciousness, rehabilitation could take months, if not years. In any event, they say, it may be months before the situation becomes clear.

In the Netherlands, where euthanasia was legalised in 2002, there has already been speculation about whether the royal family would ever decide to end his life if he remains in a coma. Media experts on the royal family feel that this would not happen.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands is common. Mobile euthanasia units are now being introduced, the idea being that if your doctor is not willing to end your life you can call in a mobile unit for euthanasia in your home.

The scheme is an initiative of NVVE (the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life), a 130,000-member organisation that is the biggest of its kind in the world. The free mobile service began last week. It is hoped to have six units covering the country by the end of the year.

Novelist Martin Amis was widely quoted for his remarks about "euthanasia booths on every street corner." A deliberate exaggeration, no doubt - but perhaps not as far-fetched as some had supposed?