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Leading ethicist: Dutch euthanasia law moving towards ‘death on demand’

Assisted Suicide
29 September 2021
Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia 28p129 3 0

A leading ethicist and critic of euthanasia laws has warned that the ‘ground is being prepared for death on demand’ in the Netherlands two decades after the practice was legalised.

Wesley J Smith, a senior fellow at the US Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, points to a new study published in global health journal Population Health which “appears to be an early gambit to remove the medical requirement from the Dutch law altogether”.

The study, which focuses on Dutch people committing suicide outside the medical suicide framework, asks how citizens who want to take their lives without the desire being “rooted in a medical condition”, should be helped. It states:

“[Physician assisted suicide] in the Netherlands is embedded in the medical domain as it is presently understood in Dutch law. This raises the question how to address the desire to die from people whose wish to intentionally end their own life is not rooted in a medical condition and therefore fall outside the medical framework of assistance in dying.”

Smith comments: “’How to address the desire to die’ — posed as a question — sure seems like an invitation for authorities to begin thinking about removing the requirement of a medical condition as a predicate to being euthanized.”

He adds that “euthanasia changes mindsets to think of death as a positive when it is wanted (and even if it isn’t in some cases). The sheer force of gravity unleashed by such laws pushes society logically toward accepting a process of continually expanding access to death for nearly any non-transitory reason. In other words, suicide becomes a liberty issue.”

The ethicist notes that Germany’s highest court has already recognised suicide as a constitutional right. In February last year, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that:

“The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence.”

“It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.”

Smith adds: “The Dutch are heading there too, as are other Western societies — including ours — just some more quickly and others more slowly. We are all sinking into nihilist quick sand. Unless we change our collective mindset, it is only a matter of ‘when’.”

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