Be careful what you wish for when you legalize active killing

Be careful what you wish for when you legalize active killing

By Professor Theo Boer,
Professor of Health Car Ethics and former reviewer of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands.

…After euthanasia was legalized in 2002, I supported the Dutch legislation and worked for the authorities reviewing euthanasia cases between 2005 and 2014. I was convinced that the Dutch had found the proper balance between compassion, respect for human life, and respect for individual liberties. Over the years, however, I became increasingly concerned about some developments. After an initial stabilization we saw a dramatic increase in the numbers, which went from 2,000 in 2002 to 6,300 in 2019. In some urban districts in the Netherlands, between 12 and 14% of all deaths are the result of assisted dying. The outgoing director of the Euthanasia Expertise Centre – which provides assisted dying to almost 1,000 patients yearly – expects the euthanasia numbers to double again in the near future. We also saw differences in the way the legal criteria were interpreted. In the pioneering years of Dutch euthanasia, it was found almost exclusively in terminally ill mentally competent adults. After some decades, the practice extended to include those with chronic conditions, disabled people, those with psychiatric problems, and incompetent adults with an advance directive. Expansion is under debate for euthanasia in young children and for elderly persons without a medical diagnosis…

The logic of many is that assisted dying will bring down the numbers of violent and traumatizing suicides. If true, this would be a powerful argument in favor of changing the law. But the Dutch statistics speak another language. Whereas the percentage of euthanasia of the total mortality went from 1.6% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2019, the suicide numbers went also up: from 8.3 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2007 to 10.5 in 2019, a 15% rise. If we would include the deaths through assisted suicide in patients considered to be at risk of committing suicide (psychiatric patients, people with chronic illnesses, dementia patients, elderly and lonely people), the total increase in self chosen deaths over the past decade would be closer to 50% than to 15%. Meanwhile in Germany, very similar to the Netherlands in terms of religion, economy and population, the suicide rates went down by 10%…

Read the full article at The Independent…