The Netherlands is notorious for its lax position on assisted suicide and euthanasia, but the full scale of the culture of death in the European country hadn’t quite sunk in for many people — until now. A new report in The Guardian illustrates just how far down the slippery slope the Dutch have fallen, with a quarter of all deaths in the Netherlands induced in some manner.
Dr. Bert Keizer is a Dutch physician who is willing to commit euthanasia, and he spoke to The Guardian about his experience, treating assisted suicide as a positive step forward for society. “For the first time in history, we have developed a space where people move towards death while we are touching them and they are in our midst,” he said. “That’s completely different from killing yourself when your wife’s out shopping and the kids are at school and you hang yourself in the library – which is the most horrible way of doing it, because the wound never heals. The fact that you are a person means that you are linked to other people. And we have found a bearable way of severing that link, not by a natural death, but by a self-willed ending. It’s a very special thing.”
Evidently, for Keizer and others like him, suicide is positive, acceptable, and even “special,” as long as the person killing himself has the approval and support of family and friends. Keizer, in fact, seems gleeful about how widespread euthanasia has become in the country. Yet others are sounding alarms – like Theo Boer, a member of one of the five regional boards set up to review euthanasia cases, and a teacher of ethics at the Theological University of Kampen. “[W]hen I’m showing the statistics to people in Portugal or Iceland or wherever, I say: ‘Look closely at the Netherlands because this is where your country may be 20 years from now,’” Boer told The Guardian.
Boer is right to be concerned. In the year 2017, 6,600 people were euthanized, while an additional 1,900 people killed themselves. And on top of that, an incredible 32,000 people died while under palliative sedation, which The Guardian describes as “in theory, succumbing to their illness while cocooned from physical discomfort, but in practice often dying of dehydration while unconscious.” Together, this equals over a quarter of all deaths in the Netherlands.
Such disturbing statistics are not altogether surprising. In 2017, it was discovered that 1 in 20 deaths in the Netherlands were due to euthanasia, and that one mentally ill patient is euthanized every week. Even more disturbingly, it was also discovered in 2017 that over 400 people were euthanized without their consent. People in the Netherlands have been euthanized for things like autism, addiction, depression, or sexual abuse.
Interestingly, the abortion rate in the Netherlands has not seen the same explosion as the assisted suicide rate has. While the number of abortions rose slightly from 2014 to 2015, at 30,803, the Netherlands still has a lower abortion rate, than many other countries, and the abortion rate there has fallen since 2004. Yet there are still issues there as well; despite the low rate, eugenic abortion is common in the Netherlands, with women even told they have a “moral duty” to have an abortion if their preborn child is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Why? Because people with Down syndrome are considered a “financial burden,” with the Dutch Ministry of Health calling Down syndrome the most expensive “disease” a person can have. Cancer, which is significantly more expensive and is actually deadly, was left off the list completely.
The Netherlands shows just how poisonous the culture of death can be. The people who originally campaigned for legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands surely had good intentions. But many, like Boer, are beginning to change their minds, only to realize a new fear: that the culture of death might be impossible to dismantle.
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