Santorum made this particular comment on February 5, at the Grace Bible Church in Columbia, Missouri. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family (the Christian organization which was the subject of Jeffrey Sharlet’s book “The Family”) and a Santorum supporter (Dobson endorsed Santorum), moderated the forum.
Santorum claimed that in the Netherlands, the elderly are euthanized without their consent:
“In the Netherlands people wear a different bracelet if you're elderly and the bracelet is 'do not euthanize me.' Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, but half the people who are euthanized every year, and it's 10 percent of all deaths for the Netherlands, half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don't go to the hospital, they go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, that they will not come out of that hospital if they go in with sickness.”
As you might imagine, his inaccurate and patently false comments regarding a law regulating end of life procedures in the Netherlands, caused quite an uproar in the Netherlands.
FactCheck.org on the actual facts:
First, let's review the law. The 2001 Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act allows Dutch citizens to end their lives if they are suffering from a medical condition that causes "unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement." There are two end-of-life procedures: euthanasia, where a doctor administers a fatal drug, or assisted suicide, where the doctor prescribes the fatal drug and the patient administers it. The law took effect on April 1, 2002.
According to a publication distributed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, doctors must be satisfied that the patient's request is "voluntary and well-considered," and that there is "unbearable suffering with no prospect for improvement." The patient's doctor must consult at least one other independent doctor, who is responsible for ensuring the "due care criteria" is met.
After the termination of a patient's life, the death must be reported to the government and reviewed by regional committees composed of, at a minimum, a doctor, ethicist and legal expert.
Now, let's look at Santorum's three claims. We'll begin with a stunning claim that the elderly are so afraid of being euthanized for "budget purposes" that they wear "do not euthanize me" bracelets. We were told by a government official and a representative of a Dutch physicians' association that this is simply not true.
When we contacted the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, public health spokeswoman Inge Freriksen told us that "a bracelet asking not to be euthanized doesn't exist." Patients would only be euthanized after they followed the set of guidelines as outlined above.