Dutch government plans to legalise assisted suicide for those who feel they have ‘completed life’

The Netherlands intends to authorize assisted suicide for elderly people who feel they have “completed life” even though they are perfectly healthy.

In a joint letter sent to Parliament, the Dutch Health and Justice Ministers said that “people who have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to end their life in what appears to them to be a dignified manner.” The people concerned are those “who do not have the possibility to continue life in a meaningful way, who are struggling with the loss of independence and reduced mobility, and who have a sense of loneliness”.

This proposed text, which is not yet finalized, is intended for the elderly, yet the government did not define a threshold age. Ending lives will have to be put in the hands of “death assistance providers” or “specialist terminal carers”: individuals with a medical background and special training, who would authorize the procedure after verifying that no treatment could relieve their “death wish”. Following death, the procedure will be examined by a specialized committee.

Several political parties criticized the idea, and warned that such a law could lead to “pressure on elderly people, who will feel that they are a burden on their community.” Many Dutch people were troubled, raising fears over what might happen to “vulnerable, lonely, and desperate people”.

Euthanasia was legalized in 2002 in the Netherlands. The provisions implemented are regularly prone to interpretation and controversy, especially for euthanasia of individuals with mental illness or dementia, and for children as young as 12 years old.

Since euthanasia was legalized, the number of deaths by euthanasia has continually increased. Euthanasia accounted for 5,516 deaths in the Netherlands in 2015 which represents 3.9% of all deaths nationwide, compared to 3,136 cases 5 years earlier. Among these deaths, more than 70% were suffering from cancer and 2.9% from psychiatric illness or dementia.

Henri de Soos, Alliance VITA’s General Secretary declares:

« This country is going down a slippery slope. Legalizing euthanasia inevitably permeates a country with an “end of life” or “death” culture. It is worrying to see that according to a poll published at the beginning of the year, 64% of the Dutch population were in favor of having access to an “end of life” pill! According to this draft bill, people can request assisted suicide, without any medical reason whatsoever; just by demonstrating that they have carefully considered the act, and that their life is over? An ethical wake-up call is desperately needed to accompany people who are alone, elderly, and dependent. They most certainly need assistance, but a society who can only offer suicide as a solution to their difficulties is unworthy.”