California has just passed and Governor Brown signed a law that allows doctor-assisted suicide. I have a problem with that. I don’t want people to suffer, but I am opposed to actually taking someone’s life because they are suffering. I believe that medicine can alleviate the suffering and allow the patient to die peacefully on their own. I see no advantage to simply killing a patient before their body is ready to die.
Assisted suicide has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001. We might take a look at their experience with the practice of euthanasia to see how it works.
According to a Daily Beast article from February of last year:
Their law, which went into effect in 2002, allowed doctors to end the lives of their patients in the context of a state health care system that emphasized close consultation with family physicians over many years. The termination of life was supposed to be limited to those with “unbearable and hopeless suffering” whose mental faculties were not impaired and who had no other hope of relief.
But recent revelations about the way euthanasia is practiced by one group in The Netherlands, especially for those suffering from psychiatric illnesses, is making even the Dutch feel uncomfortable. The new debate raises questions about the way appointed commissions judge these life-ending practices, and echoes the kinds of ‘slippery-slope’ criticisms often made by right-wing and religious parties in the United States.
…But where does one draw the line? Because these patients are not physically ill, the evaluations of independent psychiatrists are under scrutiny. Does this mean any person suffering from serious depression can shop around until he or she finds someone willing to help with suicide? And euthanasia is not only for old people. How young can you be and still get legal help if you want to die? How far should society go to overcome the biologically inbuilt threshold that makes it hard to take one’s own life by aiding someone to do so?
The controversy surrounding the Life-Ending Clinic’s activities has caused the Dutch press to look at some of the other cases from recent years. In one particularly disturbing case a 35-year-old woman, the youngest to die since the Dutch law was introduced, got help killing herself in 2012. Excerpts of her file were published by Dutch national newspaper Trouw and read like a sad story of clinical depression. But the file also shows an extended period of hopefulness. Not enough apparently. A team of doctors decided there was no cause to wait, and ended her life.
I have heard reports of elderly patients in the Netherlands going into the hospital for a minor matter and being euthanized in the interest of saving money for their families. I cannot personally attest to these stories, but because of the sources, I am inclined to believe them.
It would be ironic if in America the first generation to kill their children in abortion because those children were inconvenient were also the first generation to be euthanized by their children because having an elderly parent was inconvenient.