The Netherlands is preparing to draft a bill that would allow elderly people to seek doctor-assisted suicide if they are physically healthy, but feel they have “completed life” — a proposal that has stunned critics, as The New York Times reported.
These individuals and groups believe the Dutch government would be going too far if it enacted such a measure, adding some credence to fears that euthanasia — which started in 2002 in the Netherlands for patients who are terminally ill — holds the potential, once legalized, to morph into something far more sweeping and morally questionable.
Christian groups are among those speaking out against the proposal, with Gert-Jan Segers, leader of a Christian parliamentary party, saying that the law, if enacted, would have a profound impact on the community at large.
“The myth is that it is purely individual choice, while it always also affects family, the community, health care providers and ultimately society,” Segers told Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.
And American priest James Martin responded by calling the proposal “the slippery slope we feared.”
The slippery slope we feared: "Dutch may allow assisted suicide for those who feel they have 'completed life'" https://t.co/7s0HVayFub
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) October 13, 2016
Doctor-assisted suicide isn’t all that rare in the Netherlands, as 5,516 people sought euthanasia last year, alone, accounting for nearly 4 percent of all Dutch deaths. And the government openly addresses the contentious subject on its website, saying it is “performed only when the patient has clearly expressed the wish to die.”
“Euthanasia is the termination of life by a physician at the patient’s request. The aim is to end unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement,” the website reads. “Physician-assisted suicide also falls under this definition. Only under certain conditions is euthanasia not considered an offense.”
The idea behind the expanded proposal for the elderly is that, much like terminally ill patients who seek out “death with dignity,” elderly Dutch residents should also have that same right when they feel life has run its course, as the Times reported.
Plans for the measure are reportedly in motion, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte hoping to see a draft of the law put together by the end of 2017, the outlet reported.
Here’s a 2012 news report that covers this very subject:
In a letter read to parliament earlier this month, health minister Edith Schippers cited a variety of reasons why the government believes the measure is appropriate, including: the reality that some elderly people are lonely due to the loss of loved ones and others, they are tired and deteriorating or are struggling with a lack of mobility, among other reasons.
The letter proclaims this would be for elderly people who “have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete.”But there was no age threshold given, leaving many questions about whom, exactly, the proposal would impact.
According to Business Insider, people wouldn’t simply be able to walk into a doctor’s office and grab some pills, though; they would, instead, need to meet with specialists, including one professional referred to as a “death assistance provider” before being cleared to end their lives.
It’s no surprise that Christian leaders and groups are reacting with shock, as they push back against the proposal.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, a U.K. Christian advocacy group, said the legalization of euthanasia naturally leads to expanded proposals such as these, calling it an “inevitable consequence.”
(H/T: New York Times)