Laying the Netherlands to Sleep

On my most recent visit to Amsterdam for the World Congress of Families (WCF), I was once again struck by the remarkable façade of peaceful, tolerant prosperity the Dutch maintain. Although its famous openness to lust and license is ever more apparent, Amsterdam’s charm remains in its tidy homes, shops, museums, and beautiful (though empty) churches.

The simple fact, however, is that this beacon of liberalism worldwide is rotting from the inside out and must increasingly rely on deception to keep up appearances as a nation of tolerance, peace, and prosperity.

That was made nowhere more apparent than at the WCF, a biannual event that brings together pro-family and pro-life persons from around the globe. The mainstream press debated the acceptability of allowing it to take place in Amsterdam and condemned the participation of Dutch elected officials in the congress. Anarchist anti-family protestors trashed the WCF office and spray-painted messages with slogans like “Christian Fundamentalists Go Home and Die” and “Pro-Choice” on the walls leading up to the conference center. City workers removed the graffiti within a few hours of its appearance in a remarkable demonstration of efficiency.

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Dutch authorities have become quite adept at painting over the anti-family and anti-life attitudes that are eroding not only the last vestiges of their rich culture but what remains of the Dutch people themselves. Their total population is 16.7 million; those 65 or older make up almost 15 percent of the inhabitants (as opposed to the United States, whose 65-or-over citizens account for 12.8 percent of the population). The percentage of youths aged 15 or younger is declining, and within that demographic group is an increasing number of foreign immigrants. It has been reported widely that the most common name chosen for a male child born in Amsterdam today is Mohammed (as is the case in London, Brussels, Oslo, and Copenhagen). Arguments about religion, ethnicity, and assimilation aside, it doesn’t take a trained demographer to notice that this trend does not bode well for the European Dutch.

This proudly progressive nation increasingly tries to maintain its air of normalcy and prosperity by sophisticated deception. They frequently claim their country has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, at 6.5 abortions per 1,000 women, or about 22,400 a year. They also claim a very low teen pregnancy rate.

But this is simply statistical sleight of hand. Although the Dutch faithfully use birth control, anyone who studies family planning knows the failure rates for contraceptives are very high. Combine the inevitable failure of pregnancy prevention with an openly promiscuous populace, and you inevitably will see large numbers of pregnancies.

So are the Netherlands an exception to this rule? Some claim that their “double-Dutch” method of using both hormonal contraception and condoms works better than most other countries’ birth-control practices. Something rarely discussed in this context, however, is the fact that it is now common practice for a woman in Holland whose period is late to go to her general-practice physician and receive a “menstrual extraction,” or “menstrual regulation”—a clever euphemism for a procedure essentially consisting in manually vacuuming the contents of her womb.

But here’s the catch: In these cases, no pregnancy test is done to determine if the procedure aborted a preborn human in the first few days of life. Menstrual extractions are thus never recorded as abortions, which they almost certainly are in a large number of cases. The official Dutch statistics therefore grossly underreport the real number of abortions.

Euthanasia is another area where the official numbers paint a misleading picture. Dr. Henk Jochemsen, holder of the Lindeboom Chair for Medical Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, reported that the Netherlands acknowledges around 2,300 deaths by euthanasia each year, including hundreds of patients who never explicitly requested such a death. As if this weren’t already disturbing enough, he also revealed that over 11,000 people a year die while under “deep sedation.” This procedure is sold as a compassionate option for the terminally ill, a way for them to end their lives with dignity. It was originally designed to be rarely employed, and only then for patients in their last few hours of life suffering pain that was difficult to control.

But deep sedation as currently practiced in the Netherlands has become a widespread form of passive euthanasia. Dr. Jochemsen explained that the cause of death nowadays is usually not the disease but lack of food and hydration—in short, patients are routinely starved and dehydrated while drugged into an unconscious state, a fact not revealed by the doctors.

Needless to say, these deaths while under deep sedation are not counted as euthanasia in Holland, even though they account for more than four times as many deaths as the “official” euthanasia numbers. (For more information on these issues, visit

The land of progressivism run amok loves to proclaim itself a diverse hedonists’ paradise and an island of tolerance. Dishonest statistics may maintain the clever illusion for a time, but the current version of Dutch liberalism is unlikely to endure much longer. It simply cannot be sustained: Their enthusiasm for euthanasia may wipe out the Dutch even faster than the other European nations with below-replacement birthrates.

Many ethnic groups have disappeared throughout the course of history, generally by assimilation into other peoples who placed a higher value on having children. It would be a tragedy if the unique people and culture of the Netherlands, for love of license and convenience, decided to cease to exist. Yet this slow suicide is already far advanced. As European Dutch culture moves from present to past, it seems they’ve chosen nationwide deep sedation.


  • Joseph Meaney

    Joseph Meaney is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

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