As assisted suicide continues to grow in popularity across the United States, it becomes more important than ever to look to countries where it’s already legal. While advocates claim that legalizing assisted suicide is merely about giving people suffering from terminal illnesses the chance to die with “dignity,” the reality is far more disturbing than their talking points. Assisted suicide and euthanasia cut at the core of basic human dignity and the innate value of every human life, no matter the circumstances. The Netherlands serves as a perfect example.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition highlighted the recent release of a 2015 study analyzing end-of-life decisions in the Netherlands. In 2015, there were 7,254 assisted deaths, of which 431 were “termination of life without request.” This was an increase of over 100 from the previous study in 2010, which found 310 assisted deaths without request.
This is just the latest in a long line of disturbing reports from the Netherlands involving euthanasia and assisted suicide. There, at least one person every week is euthanized for mental illness, which isn’t altogether surprising, as one in three Dutch doctors reported being willing to euthanize the mentally ill. People have been euthanized because they are autistic, fighting addiction, or victims of sexual abuse.
In one chilling case, an elderly woman was euthanized because she had dementia – even though she fought her death fiercely. She struggled so much that the doctor had her family physically hold her down while he killed her – and a Dutch panel cleared the doctor of any wrongdoing. Another man, featured in a documentary, said that he was agreeing to euthanasia only because he was afraid he would be a financial burden on his family…and was still killed.
It would be easy to brush these off as isolated cases that take place in one country – but that would be a mistake. This is what the legalization of assisted suicide leads to, time and time again. The Canadian government, for example, is beginning a formal study to consider allowing assisted suicide for “requests made by individuals with mental illness as their sole underlying condition.” Belgium recently approved euthanasia for children.
Ethical problems with euthanasia have begun surfacing in the United States as well. Insurance companies have denied life-saving treatment in favor of assisted suicide drugs. Cancer treatment is expensive, after all; assisted suicide is relatively cheap and is a one-time payment.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia cannot be allowed to spread any further. At its core, no matter the reasoning for a specific instance of euthanasia or assisted suicide, this phenomenon is not compassionate, and for too many people, it’s not a freely given choice, either. Choosing to commit suicide and being helped to do certainly does not promote human dignity, no matter what assisted suicide advocates claim. The reality is that assisted suicide and euthanasia are incredibly difficult to stop once the floodgates have been opened, and the most vulnerable people in society — including those without a choice — will inevitably become their victims.