Netherlands euthanasia 1: the fundamentalists

Suicide drug sold in the Netherlands on the internet 

Foreign observers might have the impression that it is always open season for euthanasia in the Netherlands. Not so. While the guidelines are elastic and subject to interpretation, they do exist and people violating them risk prosecution.

The first story on euthanasia in the Netherlands illustrates this. A pillar of Dutch policy is that only qualified doctors are permitted to help people die.

This week police arrested a 28-year-old Einhoven man, identified as Alex S, and charged him with illegally assisting in suicide, money laundering, and drugs… MORE

Netherlands euthanasia 2: the public prosecutor objects

Photo by Catalina Fedorova on Unsplash

The Dutch public prosecutor department and regional euthanasia review committees (RTE) are at loggerheads over the rules for carrying out euthanasia.

According to a report based on leaked documents in the newspaper Trouw, the prosecutor believes that the committees are being too lenient with doctors.

The dispute was sparked by a Supreme Court decision last year which exonerated, Marinou Arends, a doctor who gave a lethal injection to a demented woman who fought her off. The death was clearly involuntary. However, the patient had written an advance direction before lapsing… MORE

Ireland sidesteps ‘assisted dying’ debate – for now

Gino Kenny in a debate over 'assisted dying'  / screenshot Newstalk 

“Assisted dying” is a live issue in Ireland – unsurprisingly, perhaps, after the electorate repudiated traditional Catholic beliefs on divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage in several referenda.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny recently proposed a Dying with Dignity Bill. But the Justice Committee of the Oireachtas, Ireland’s parliament, ruled that it is not workable in its current form. However, the bill was dismissed on technical, not ethical, grounds. The chair of the Committee explained that it was simply not detailed enough:

"The bill itself wasn't… MORE

Kodokushi: Japan’s problem with the old and isolated


One consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic in Japan appears to be an increase in kodokushi or solitary deaths. An article in BMC Medical Ethics describes the problem and reviews possible solutions and ethical complications.

With its low birth rate, small families, and rapidly ageing population, Japan has a serious problem with social isolation of the elderly. Reliable statistics are scarce, but in 2003 in Tokyo, there were 1,451 cases of kodokushi; by 2018, that figure had nearly tripled to 3,882.

The new Japanese Prime minister even appointed a “minister for loneliness”, Tetsushi Sakamoto, in… MORE

Policy shift in Finland for gender dysphoria treatment

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The international activist group SEGM, the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, has published a review of a radical shift in the standards of care for gender dysphoric children in Finland.

A year ago, the Finnish Health Authority issued new guidelines which back psychotherapy, rather than puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, as the first-line of treatment. It took this step after a systematic review of the evidence which found the evidence for paediatric evidence “inconclusive”. Here are a few excerpts from SEGM’s summary.

Although pediatric medical transition is… MORE

A cyborg future may come earlier than we think

Surpassing the biological limitations of the brain and using the mind to control electronic devices may sound like the distant cyborg future, but it could come sooner than we think.

Researchers from Imperial College London have reviewed commercial brain-computer interface (BCI) devices in the journal APL Bioengineering. The most promising is electroencephalography (EEG), a method for monitoring the brain noninvasively through its electrical activity.

However, EEG-based BCIs, or eBCIs, raise social, ethical, and legal concerns.

Though it is difficult to understand exactly what a user experiences when operating an external device with an eBCI, a few things are certain.… MORE

Another solution for dementia: ‘advance directive implants’

No doubt you have heard of “advance directives” – guidelines for carers, guardians or doctors on what do to in the event that you are not competent to instruct them. Right-to-die associations often promote them as a way of avoiding life with dementia.

But what if the people with the power to “pull the plug” refuse? Advance directives are not legally enforceable in most jurisdictions.

Two bioethicists, Margaret Battin and Brent M. Kious, writing in The Hastings Center Report, one of the leading bioethics journals, have proposed a solution: an implant which automatically triggers a lethal drug at the… MORE

WHO gives in-principle endorsement to human genome editing

Two reports released this week by the World Health Organization (WHO) offer a pathway to establish human genome editing as a safe, effective and ethical tool for public health.

The reports were commissioned after the shocking 2018 announcement that Chinese scientist He Jiankui had used CRISPR to modify embryos that led to the birth of two girls. This was treated as an outrageous scandal by scientists around the world and He was jailed.

However, it is not the principle of He’s experiment that was repudiated, but only the practice. It was clearly not safe and he had not followed… MORE

Right-to-die in Scotland: People in glass houses, etc

The argumentum ad hominem is widely regarded as the worst of arguments, but, you know, it’s fun. It’s also dangerous, as the riposte, tu quoque – what about you?—can be painful.

This takes us to the media in Scotland, where a bill for assisted dying is gathering momentum in Holyrood. An evangelical Christian multi-millionaire, Sir Paul Souter, has pledged nearly nearly £90,000 (US$125,000) to the anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing. This irked the political editor at the Daily Record, Paul Hutcheon, who interpreted this as a Christian plot to thwart progress in Scotland.

This in turn prompted a… MORE

Male mice give birth in bizarre Chinese experiment

We missed this one during the BioEdge editor’s break. Scientists in China have conducted a bizarre experiment which allowed male rats to give birth – immediately raising a host of ethical challenges.

Researchers at the Naval Medical University in Shanghai created a heterosexual parabiotic pair by surgically joining a castrated male rat to a female one. After eight weeks, they transplanted a uterus into the male. Then they transplanted blastocyst-stage embryos into the both the male uterus and the female uterus. Finally, on embryonic day 21.5, they performed a Caesarean section.

Out of 842 embryos introduced into 46 pairs,… MORE

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