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Dutch TV Viewers See Actual Mercy Killing

October 21, 1994

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ Dutch television viewers Thursday night saw the first televised case of mercy killing.

The one-hour documentary, ″Death Upon Request,″ chronicled the story of wheelchair-bound Cees van Wendel de Joode, a 63-year-old Amsterdam man who suffered from the degenerative muscle disorder Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the famous New York Yankee baseball player whose brilliant career was cut short because of it.

The documentary was produced by the Dutch IKON broadcasting association with the approval of the patient and his physician.

The video sequences took Van Wendel de Joode from the required counseling sessions with physicians in late 1993 through his birthday night, March 4, when he died by lethal injections administered by his personal physician Dr. Wilfred van Oijen.

The disease had caused Van Wendel de Joode’s speech to deteriorate so much that he had to communicate by pointing at an alphabet board on his lap.

″Let’s not put this off,″ were his last words to the doctor.

The final frames showed Van Wendel de Joode dying with his wife Anthoinette standing by.

Anthoinette rested her head wearily on the physician’s arm as he injected a sleeping drug into her husband’s left arm.

″So peaceful ... He looked so relaxed,″ said Anthoinette, as she watched her husband slowly loose consciousness after the first injection.

After caressing her husband’s arm and kissing him on the cheeks, Anthoinette began to weep while nervously puffing on a cigarette held in her shaking hand.

″We’ve done everything together, only I can’t go with him now ... It’s finally over. It’s finished,″ she said as the doctor pronounced her husband dead.

″It’s so beautiful like this ... He didn’t feel anything. That’s the way it should be,″ she said.

While mercy killing is still officially illegal in the country, doctors are guaranteed immunity from prosecution if they follow the euthanasia policy, the most liberal in the industrialized world, and report all cases to authorities.

That policy requires that physicians performing the practice have a longstanding clinical relationship with the patient who must suffer from irremediable pain and must repeatedly and lucidly ask for death.

The program drew angry reactions in advance from anti-euthanasia physicians.

″I think it’s horrible that this (euthanasia) is being brought into the family living room so that everyone can see,″ said Dr. Karel Gunning of the anti-euthanasia Dutch Doctors’ Union.

″It shocks you to the bones to see that the way people talk about doctors killing as if a it is a normal thing to do.″

But the broadcasting association defended the documentary.

″This show is not an advertisement for euthanasia. It’s to show what (euthanasia) is really like,″ said IKON spokesman Eduard Van Rooijen. ″This program is just a registration of what happened.″

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