A right-to-die group in the Netherlands is suing the government in an attempt to expand the country’s already-lax euthanasia laws even further. The group Cooperative Last Will is calling for legalized euthanasia for everyone who wants it and is fighting to remove the requirement that only physicians can assist in suicide procedures.
“We believe it should be possible to provide the means to be able to humanely end your own life if you want to and feel it is time,” Jos van Wijk of Cooperative Last Will said in court.
“The Netherlands has been a trailblazer when it comes to abortion, when it comes to same-sex marriage and when it comes to euthanasia legislation. And now we are once again a trailblazer with regard to your own control over the end of life,” he said.
According to Reuters, the 29 plaintiffs in the case argue that the country’s current law, which requires oversight by a physician for euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths, “violates the right to self-determination and respect for private life enshrined in the European convention on human rights.”
Currently, anyone who helps a person commit suicide is subject to a jail sentence of up to three years. The plaintiffs want a change in the law that criminalizes those who help others to commit assisted suicide, thereby allowing anyone to help another person to die. They also want a lethal substance to be made available under certain conditions, thereby making it easier to access assisted suicide.
For its part, the government is arguing that its laws already allow assisted suicide and euthanasia for a wide range of reasons.
“However, the state is not obliged — and that is what this is all about — to facilitate assisted suicide, let alone allow it under all circumstances,” government lawyer Erik Koppe said during court proceedings.
Koppe also disputed the idea that the current restrictions violate the European Convention on Human Rights. “No right to die assisted by a third party or a public authority can be derived from the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, or a right to assisted suicide,” he said.
This latest court battle is evidence of the slippery slope that occurs once the taking of human life is legalized. While the country already has extremely relaxed laws surrounding assisted suicide and euthanasia, this latest lawsuit is part of the constant push for the further loosening of remaining restrictions. In allowing anyone to legally help another person to die, there is no clear indication as to what will differentiate this from actual murder — or how law enforcement is expected to know the difference.
A court ruling in the case is expected December 14.