Prince Friso of the Dutch royal family has been now for 6 months in what is called PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE (PVS). (2)
The transfer to a UK hospital may pose legal problems, as procedures for ‘ending life’ in cases where there is no more chance of recovery is problematic in the UK – as we know of a recent case of a man that sought help for ending his life that had no future – and the formal refusal of a British court to allow ‘euthanasia’ in his case.
The Netherlands does have a more liberal law in this sense.
There are hardly any examples of people in PVS that regain consciousness, and even less that have any chance to function again as a human. Younger people stand statistically a bit more chance than middle age people like Prince Friso. In most cases ‘economics’ (the extreme high costs of keeping someone in such a permanent vegetative state) form the decisive argument for halting such treatment in a specialised medical ward.
In the case of the Royal House of the Netherlands the financial means are not a problem, but this affluence creates an ethical problem.
Recently a Dutch governmental medical advice commission did propose to scrap certain extreme expensive medications for a small group of special patients. This to cope with the ‘economic crisis’. This caused an uproar as life prolonging medication, even in cases of prolongation of life of weeks or months, should not be denied. Many spoke out in this way. From specialised medical staff to patient organisations and laymen. (2)
Now how does the Dutch Prince who is kept in permanent coma in a British private hospital, fits in this discussion?
Royals are human beings like any other, are they not? They do die after all like anybody else. Those who play their role in keeping monarchies alive, need to reflect also on the limits of prolonging life and the morals and ethics needed, there where we all have to face the sometimes paradoxical consequences of the ingenuity of modern medicine. (3)
We have now witnessed a state of exemption since the avalanche accident in Austria this winter of half a year. However sad it is, also royals should come to a decision, that may be harder to take because of their wealth.
The bereavement process of the family must have been frustrated and one wonders why the wife of Prince Friso has not had the courage to, or has been kept from, ending this ‘high tech’ medical ordeal.
One hopes that Dutch Queen Beatrix who is used to control family affairs with an iron hand, will come to see that her hand is not the hand of God when she orders to pull the plugs out. It is time – also for a prince – to die.
(1) 7/7/2012 News -tableaus by Tjebbe van Tijen: “When is Prince Friso Allowed to Die?”
(2) “Unlike brain death, persistent vegetative state (PVS) is not recognized by statute as death in any legal system. In the US and UK, courts have required petitions before termination of life support that demonstrate that any recovery of cognitive functions above a vegetative state is assessed as impossible by authoritative medical opinion.
This legal grey area has led to vocal advocates that those in PVS should be allowed to die. Others are equally determined that, if recovery is at all possible, care should continue. The existence of a small number of diagnosed PVS cases that have eventually resulted in improvement makes defining recovery as “impossible” particularly difficult in a legal sense. This legal and ethical issue raises questions about autonomy, quality of life, appropriate use of resources, the wishes of family members, and professional responsibilities.” [Wikipedia on PVS]
(3) Radio Netherlands Worldwide; 31/7/2012: “An emotional debate is underway in the Netherlands over the value of a human life. On Sunday, a Dutch health insurance body announced that it was recommending that certain expensive drugs no longer be covered.”
(4) Radio Netherlands Worldwide 24/8/2012: An influential Dutch ethicist (Heleen Dupuis, former professor in medical ethics at the University of Leiden) has said that if Queen Beatrix’s son, Prince Johan Friso, had been hospitalised in the Netherlands after his ski accident, doctors would have already stopped his treatment.