Czechs react to Dutch euthanasia ruling

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News that the Netherlands has become the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia has stirred a lively debate in the Czech Republic. Both laymen and doctors are busy discussing the issue. Opinions towards mercy killing, of course, differ widely in this country, as they do throughout the rest of the world. Olga Szantova has more:

While many Czech doctors admit to being in favour of euthanasia on principle, for the time being, at least, they say it should remain illegal. Dr. Petr Weiss is a sex therapist with many years of practice: Many share the belief that introducing euthanasia in Czech society could be possible in the future, but would require very strict regulations. That feeling is very strong among doctors who have watched their patients suffering at a time when there was no hope left for them. Cancer patients are one example.

Profesor Zdenek Dienstbier is a cancer specialist. As chairman of the League Against Cancer, he is very active in helping patients who have a chance to live. But that is not always the case, and he has seen very much suffering, he says:

"I have, of course, been following the discussions in Holland and personally, I would agree with similar measures in the Czech Republic under the condition that the process is legally controlled so that it cannot possibly be misused."

The possibility of relatives or others bribing doctors to rid them of unwanted relatives is one concern raised against euthanasia. Giving gifts to doctors in hopes of achieving better treatment is not a rare occurrence in the Czech Republic, and people are afraid of what the legalization of euthanasia could lead to. On the other hand, special care for terminal patients is far from sufficient in this country. So discussions about introducing euthanasia will continue, says Dr. Pavel Bocek, a child cancer specialist:

Author: Olga Szantová
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