Healthy over 75s targeted in Dutch assisted suicide law expansion

A Dutch MP has tabled a controversial Bill that would allow healthy people to have an assisted suicide if they feel their life is ‘complete’.

Pia Dijkstra, Foreign Minister for the four-party coalition Government and medical ethics lead for coalition party D66, submitted the proposed bill last week.

It would allow healthy individuals over 75-years-old who have “a strong death wish” for at least two months to seek the assistance of an ‘end-of-life supervisor’ to die.

The Bill will now go to the Raad van State judicial advisory committee for review – a process which will take three to six months – before being scheduled for a debate and vote.

It will then need to win a majority vote in the House of Representatives before being passed to the Senate for a debate and vote.

‘Completely unacceptable’

According to Dutch News, the proposals are likely to stoke conflict in the Government, with two of the coalitions four parties being radically opposed to any further expansion of assisted suicide legislation.  

The Christian Union party finds the proposal completely unacceptable and says its timing, during the coronavirus pandemic, is insensitive.

The party leader, Gert-Jan Segers, said: “I find it extraordinarily painful that at a time when old people feel extra vulnerable, D66 submits a proposal that we know will cause many of them increased insecurity and worry.”

Christian Union Party member Carla Dik-Faber added: “D66 chooses against all advice to come up with a law that is literally life-threatening… Instead of a plan to address the concerns, the worrying and needs that the elderly may suffer from, says D66: here you have a pill. I find that very, very bitter.”

Outlining his opposition to the proposals, CDA leader and health minister, Hugo de Jonge, made an appeal to tackle issues of loneliness and social problems faced by the elderly.

In a parliamentary briefing he said: “It is our task to make every effort to ensure that these people find the meaning of life and meaning in life again.”

Outlining their opposition to similar proposals in 2017, the KNMG Royal Dutch Medical Association believe it could have the undesirable effect of stigmatising the aged population.

The medical association said that the government should invest in measures to make sure the elderly do not feel their lives are pointless, over the option of an early death.

Euthanasia on the increase

The Netherlands’ only euthanasia clinic recently revealed that it had seen a 22% increase in requests from people seeking assistance to end their lives last year compared to 2018.

Last month, a Dutch doctor, who was cleared of murder for euthanising a vulnerable woman with dementia, waived her anonymity to declare she did the “right thing”, even though her patient said “no” three times.

In an interview with Dutch current affairs programme Nieuwsuur, Marinou Arends attempted to justify her actions saying they were “for the best”.

Her comments come after a 2019 district court ruling in the Hague stating that doctors in the Netherlands can no longer be prosecuted for carrying out euthanasia on dementia patients who have previously given written consent.

Previously, those with dementia would need to reconfirm their earlier request.