Other People's Lives: Reflections on Medicine, Ethics, and Euthanasia Richard Fenigsen, M.D., Ph.D.* Part Two: Medicine Versus Euthanasia Chapter XXIX. The Shaping of Public Opinion
In Holland, the opinion polls conducted in the last three decades have shown an increasing acceptance of euthanasia by the public: in 1986, 76 to 77 percent of the respondents supported euthanasia (whether voluntary or involuntary),^38 jjj 2001 the percentage rose to 82.^^ The consolidation of the present overwhelming majority must be seen as a remarkable phenomenon in the very diversified Dutch society where so many religious denominations coexist and no less than eleven political parties compete in the elections. One of the influences that has contributed to creating those exceptionally high percentages in favor of euthanasia was the way the polls were conducted. With social acceptance of euthanasia known to be on the rise. " Chapters XXIX and XXX of Other People's Lives: Reflections onMedidne, Ethics, and Euthanasia, by Richard Fenigsen, also published sub. nom Przysiega Hipokratesa [The Hippocratic Oath] by Ryszard Fenigsen (Polish, 2010). Dr. Fenigsen is a retired cardiologist, Willem-Alexander Hospital, 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands; M.D., University of Lodz Medical School (Poland), 1951; Ph.D., Medical Academy, Lodz, 1959. Chapters I and II were published in the Spring 2008 edition, 23 ISSUES IN LAW &MED. 281 (2008); Chapters III, IV, and V were published in the Fall 2008 edition, 24 ISSUES IN LAW &MED. 149 (2008); Chapters VI, VII, and VIII were published in the Spring 2009 edition, 24 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 221 (2009); Chapters IX - XII were published in the Summer 2009 edition, 25 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 45 (2009); Chapters XIII and XIV were published in the Fall 2009 edition, 25 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 169 (2009); Chapters XV - XX were published in the Summer 2010 edition, 26 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 33 (2101); Chapters XXI - XXIII were published in the Spring 2011 edition, 26 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 239 (2111); Chapters XXTV - XXVI were published in the Summer 2011 edition, 27 ISSUES IN LAW &MED. 51 (2011); and Chapters XXVII - XXVIII were published in the Spring 2012 edition, 27 ISSUES IN LAW & MED. 231 (2012). " ' Meer Nederlanders voor actieve euthanasie [More Dutchmen favor active euthanasia], NRC HANDELSBLAD, Jan. 13,1986. ^^' G. V N DER WAL, A. VAN DER HEIDE, B.D. ONWUTEAKA-PHILIPSEN, & P. J. VAN DERMAAS, A MEDISCHE BESLUITVORMING AAN HET EINDE VAN HET LEVEN: DE PRAKTIJK EN DE TOETSING
PROCEDURE [Medical decision making at the end of life: The practice and verification procedure] 69 (tbl. 7.3) (De Tijdstroom, Utrecht 2003).
Issues in Law & Medicine, Volume 28, Number 1, 2012
asking solely the positively construed questions of the tj^e "Do you agree with ...," as all the questionnaires did, was bound to elicit many quick and less than thoroughly considered affirmative answers. The results could be different had the questionnaires been drawn up in a way that would induce the respondents to consider both the pros and cons of euthanasia.^" The selective information supplied to the Dutch public was of utmost importance in shaping opinion on the issue of euthanasia. In the last thirty years a great number of books, monographs, official documents, press reports and scientific papers on the subject have been published in Holland, and symposia have been exceedingly frequent. Among those thousands of publications and telecasts a few were open-minded on the issue of euthanasia, most favored it, and discussed euthanasia as an established practice beyond any dispute. From 1982 to 1985,166 items concerning euthanasia were published in a large circulation moderate Dutch daily, Brabants Dagblad; only two of these opposed euthanasia. Of the eleven existing TV corporations, only one telecasts programs allowing the opponents of euthanasia to explain their point of view. The Dutch opponents of euthanasia who wish to state their views in...
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