The Dutch government is set to legalize euthanasia for people who don’t want to live anymore but are not necessarily terminally ill or experiencing extreme suffering.
In a briefing to parliament on Wednesday, the 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 finish that life in a manner dignified for them.”
The option would be limited to “the elderly,” though the briefing did not define an age limit.
The move is the latest expansion of the country’s euthanasia policy,
which critics have already have said does not protect vulnerable
populations, including children, the disabled and those with mental
Earlier this year, critics decried a case
in which a Dutch woman in her 20s was euthanized after her mental
health condition was declared “insufferable” by a team of doctors and
psychiatrists in the Netherlands.
She had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety,
and other mental illnesses as a result of being a victim of sexual
abuse. Multiple reports classified her condition as “incurable,” thus
legally justifying the woman's death by euthanasia under Dutch law.
woman was just one of many who have been legally euthanized due to
mental illness since the law began.
The country’s law also provides provisions for children ages 12-15 to
request euthanasia or assisted suicide with parental permission, a
safeguard that does not apply to minors age 16-18. There is also a
provision for newborn infants to be euthanized if a certain set of
criteria are met.
The neighboring country of Belgium became the first country to
legalize the euthanasia of minors without an age limit, with parental
consent and the consultation of other medical professionals.
The Netherlands was the first country to decriminalize euthanasia and
assisted suicide in 2002.
Euthanasia differs from physician-assisted
suicide in that a third party – a doctor, a family member – may
administer lethal drugs to the patient.
suicide, the patient’s doctor provides the means of death, such as
lethal prescriptions, but legally only the patient can administer the
drugs to themselves.
In 2002, the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide
(Review Procedures) Act decriminalized euthanasia and assisted suicide
for physicians who were acting under a certain set of criteria, which
included the nature of the patient's request (that it be persistent and
voluntary), that the patient's suffering is unbearable with no prospect
of recovery, and the conditions of the request were confirmed by at
least two doctors.
According to reports from The Guardian,
the new “completed life” proposal came as a surprise after a commission
tasked with studying the policy concluded there was no need for it.
But the health and justice ministers disagreed.
“The cabinet is of the opinion that a request for help (in dying)
from people who suffer unbearably and have no hope without an underlying
medical reason can be a legitimate request“.
The push for legal euthanasia and assisted suicide has increased in
Western countries in the past few years. In June of this year, Canada
legalized physician-assisted suicide, as did the state of California,
joining the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
Also in June of this year, Pope Francis denounced physician-assisted suicide
as part of a “throwaway culture” that offers a “false compassion” and
treats a human person as a problem. Addressing medical professionals
from Spain and Latin America at the Vatican, the Pope criticized “those
who hide behind an alleged compassion to justify and approve the death
of a patient.”
“You are well aware of the meaning of the triumph of selfishness, of
this ‘throwaway culture’ that rejects and dismisses those who do not
comply with certain canons of health, beauty and utility,” he said.
“True compassion does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate
and exclude – much less considers the disappearance of a person as a
The “completed life” extension is expected to go into effect in the Netherlands by the end of 2017.