Since legalizing physician-assisted suicide in 2002, the Netherlands has become well-known throughout Europe and beyond for its callous disregard for human life. A recent proposal would, if enacted, make the situation even worse.
Assisted suicide is already available upon request in the Netherlands for persons aged 16 or older who experience “‘unbearable suffering, without prospect of improvement’” and for whom there is “‘no reasonable alternative.’” Appallingly, patients aged 12 to 15 may receive assisted suicide with parental consent, and parents may authorize euthanasia for babies who are seriously ill. Also, assisted suicide can be provided to persons who are physically healthy, but are suffering due to mental health difficulties.
Apparently, however, at least one member of the Dutch Parliament believes that his nation’s assisted suicide laws are still not permissive enough. That member of Parliament has proposed to legalize assisted suicide for persons aged 75 and older who are healthy, but who have had “‘a strong death wish for at least two months.’” Opponents—quite understandably—object to this proposal on the grounds that it “preys on lonely and possibly depressed elderly people [who] need support and resources rather than offers of suicide.”
Despite the many legislative setbacks that the State of New York has experienced in the past year-and-a-half, the fact that physician-assisted suicide remains illegal here is a reason to be glad. New Yorkers must continue to fight physician-assisted suicide legislation; the sad state of affairs in the Netherlands must not become a reality here. Once a society embraces the notion that assisted suicide is acceptable in some circumstances, it becomes difficult or impossible to justify any limits on its availability.