The Dutch parliament may soon be considering the possibility of legalizing suicide and euthanasia for the elderly who are simply “tired of living” after a Dutch right-to-die group collected enough signatures to force a debate on the issue.
The euthanasia advocacy group “Of Free Will” is demanding that legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide be extended beyond those who are terminally ill to healthy individuals over the age of 70 who “consider their lives complete.”
The group says it has collected more than 100,000 signatures in support of changing the country’s euthanasia law to allow the training of non-medical staff to administer a lethal injection or deadly cocktail to the aged who have a “heartfelt and enduring desire” to die.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of reactions, especially because people took it so seriously and reactions were mostly positive,” spokeswoman Marie-Jose Grotenhuis told reporters earlier this week.
Though opinion polls in Holland show significant support for assisted suicide for seniors, the Royal Dutch Medical Association opposes the idea.
Medical Association spokesman Sander Hofman told the media that while “a doctor probably has a role in easing the suffering of a person who is refusing to eat or drink,” his group is not comfortable with extending assisted suicide in the manner proposed by “Of Free Will” and will set up a committee to examine the proposals.
Under the current Dutch euthanasia law, enacted in 2002, two doctors must concur that a patient is experiencing unbearable pain with no chance of recovery, and no longer wants to live, before he or she can be given a lethal dose.
About 2,500 euthanasia cases were reported in Holland in 2009, a number that has risen gradually over the last decade as doctors have become used to the practice of killing their patients.
Critics of the Dutch proposal say there is concern that the elderly may come under pressure from unscrupulous relatives to kill themselves “so as not to be a burden,” and that this is the actual intent of the euthanasia lobby.
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that the Dutch euthanasia lobby has been pushing for euthanasia for those who are “tired of living” as their “final solution” for many years.
Schadenberg remarked, “When I attended the World Federation of Right to Die Societies Conference in Toronto in September 2006, the leader of the NVVE – Dutch euthanasia society, stated that he was concerned that activism on the part of the euthanasia lobby should be discouraged because it would prevent their group from achieving the final goal – euthanasia for those who are ‘tired of living.’ At the same conference Philip Nitschke, Australia’s Dr. Death, asked the question, why should we not have euthanasia available to those who are ‘tired of living.’”
However, Schadenberg said he is deeply concerned about the likelihood for abuse – that is, the pressure that the elderly might feel, from their own family or from society, to choose to kill themselves. Schadenberg observed, “Often our mothers continue to want the best for us, even after we have grown up. It would be easy to convince some of them that death is preferable to living with special needs. These women will feel that by agreeing to euthanasia they are doing ‘what is best for their children.’
“But,” Schadenberg concluded, “this is the prime example of how choice is a lie and assisted suicide and euthanasia are a ‘recipe for elder abuse.’ Considering the reality, choice is simply a slogan and not a reality.”