Dutch Prince Johan Friso, brain-damaged after being buried by an avalanche in Austria last month, has been transferred to Wellington Hospital, in London. Doctors believe that the 43-year-old is unlikely to recover consciousness, although it will be weeks before they have a clear idea of his prospects.
Prince Friso is the second son of Queen Beatrix but is not in line to the throne because of his marriage to a controversial commoner. He has been working in London as the financial director of a company producing enriched uranium.
The Netherlands does not have specialised centres for treating brain-damaged patients over 25, so the royal family has been forced to seek treatment abroad. It appears that the standard for care in the Netherlands is different than in neighbouring Germany, for instance. German doctors use biological life as the standard, while Dutch doctors use “brain death”. If Dutch patients are permanently neurologically unresponsive, they are allowed to die. In Germany, on the other hand, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 patients living in a permanent vegetative state. In the Netherlands there are very few.
The Dutch and German media have broached the topic of euthanasia and organ donation. However, there has been no comment whatsoever from the Prince’s family. Opposition to euthanasia, even though it is legal under some circumstances in the Netherlands, is still strong, especially among Evangelicals. Media experts on the Dutch royalty feel that this option is not really possible.
“The fact that a few days after the accident, the question of euthanasia for Prince Friso is discussed publicly is appalling,” says Eugen Brysch, head of the German Hospice Foundation.