A Dutch court ruled last Wednesday that medical professionals are the only people who can participate in assisted suicide procedures, rejecting a request from a right-to-die group that argued anyone should be able to help another person
Cooperative Last Will, a pro-euthanasia organization, brought the case to the court earlier this year, arguing that the nation’s requirement that physician-assisted suicide must be facilitated by a medical doctor violates the respect for private life and right to self-determination, as set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We believe it should be possible to provide the means to be able to humanely end your own life,” said Jos van Wijk of Cooperative Last Will.
Van Wijk, along with several other members of Cooperative Last Will, has faced legal action for trafficking suicide powder, and selling it illegally to people who want to kill themselves without physician oversight.
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Testifying in support of the law change was a woman named Marion van Gerrevink, whose 22-year-old son killed himself in 2010. During her testimony, van Gerrevink noted that her son had suffered from depression his whole life. Yet instead of arguing for better mental health support, she says she wished she could have helped him die in a more dignified manner. “He had to take that last step utterly alone,” she said.
In their ruling, the judges determined that the country’s euthanasia laws — which are considered to be among the most relaxed in the world — strike a “fair balance between the societal interests of a ban on assisting a suicide – protection of life and preventing abuse of vulnerable persons – and the interests of an individual to have access to physician-assisted suicide in the case of unbearable suffering without the prospect it will get better.”
The court ruled that the “right to decide for oneself about one’s own end of life is indeed protected” under the European Convention, “however, this right to self-determination does not go so far that there is also a right to obtain assisted suicide.”
Cooperative Last Will’s spokesperson, Frits Spangenberg, said that so many people turned out to see the ruling that the group had to rent a meeting room in a nearby hotel to livestream the proceedings. “We see that more and more people want to make their own decisions about their end of life,” he noted.
Spangenberg said they are disappointed by the ruling and are considering whether to appeal. “I’m not surprised, but I’d hoped for more perspective,” he said.
Wesley J. Smith, Chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, spoke to EWTN Nightly News about the court’s decision, warning that the fight was far from over. Smith expects there to be a continued effort to expand euthanasia in the country.
“The ultimate goal of the euthanasia movement is death on demand,” he said. “What you see is that once euthanasia is legalized, it continues to expand, and the same is true about assisted suicide… The idea that strict guidelines protect against abuse is ridiculous.”