The first country to legalize assisted suicide is now on the brink of taking it a step further and making it legal for individuals who feel their “life is complete” to also choose euthanasia.
The Netherlands expanded physician-assisted suicide in 2002. Now the Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalize assisted suicide for people who feel their life is over but are not even terminally ill or deemed to be suffering. Reuters reports that the Dutch government expects to draft a law by late 2017.
Health Minister Edith Schippers and Justice Minister Ard van der Steur wrote in the new letter that the guidelines should move beyond decriminalization to fully legalize the act. They did hedge in saying the law would apply only to senior citizens, “because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly.”
The ministers did not specify a cut-off age.
Physician-assisted suicide in the United States is currently legal in the states of California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. But there has been an increasing push for legalizing physician assisted suicide in many states.
Assisted suicide legislation was introduced in 2015 in the Colorado house. The bill was voted down in committee 8-5. However, Colorado voters will have the chance to decide next month if their state will be the sixth state to legalize euthanasia. (Nurse practitioner Wendy Smith reported on the hidden dangers of that ballot measure for Live Action News here.)
For the past three consecutive years, similar legislation has been in front of the Connecticut state house. Earlier this month, the D.C. Council Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance B-21-38 (the so-called “Death with Dignity Act”), which would legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in the nation’s capital. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the full Council on October 18th. Residents of the District of Columbia may contact their council members here to urge them to oppose B-21-38.
In early 2015, Maryland’s legislature debated a “Death with Dignity Act” despite the fact that Governor Larry Hogan voiced his opposition to any such legislation.
The Massachusetts Death with Dignity Initiative was narrowly defeated in 2012 with 51% opposing the proposal.
Similar legislation passed out of committee in the New Jersey house two years ago, but was stopped in the state senate.
Tennessee’s legislature has begun debating assisted suicide, and proponents of physician assisted suicide in New York are optimistic that it will soon follow the six states who currently allow euthanasia.
Wendy J. Smith, RN, MSN, ACNP, AOCN, has worked in the medical field for over 30 years and highlights the terribly slippery slope that physician-assisted suicide is:
Historically, we have seen safeguards erode once PAS is in place. The Netherlands is a prime example for us to examine. Several decades ago, in the 70s and 80s, PAS advocates in the Netherlands justified PAS by stating it would be limited to a number of terminally ill patients experiencing unbearable suffering. Up until 2001, only adults had access to PAS (though it was still technically a crime), but in 2001, it was made legal, and the laws even allowed children 12-16 years old to have access to PAS with parental consent. As of 2002, PAS is no longer limited to those with a terminal illness, but also includes psychological suffering. In individuals over the age of 70, PAS is permitted if they are “tired of living.”