THE HAGUE — A proposal in the Netherlands to allow assisted suicide for healthy individuals over the age of 75 has drawn criticism for offering death rather than social support to people who are lonely and depressed.
Dr. Gordon Macdonald, head of the UK-based alliance Care Not Killing, called the proposal “deeply troubling.”
“The slippery slope is real and the Dutch euthanasia law has already been massively extended,” he said in a statement.
Assisted suicide became legal in the Netherlands in 2002 for terminally ill adults who are mentally competent. Since then, the law has been expanded to encompass individuals with non-terminal chronic illnesses and disabilities, as well as mental health problems. Children as young as 12 and seriously ill infants may also be euthanized.
Currently, the quickest growing category of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands is people suffering from a mental illness but no physical impairment, Macdonald noted.
“To now consider extending the euthanasia law to people who are just tired of life, and may well be depressed, is highly irresponsible, immoral and dangerous,” he said.
Earlier this month, a Dutch MP submitted a bill to allow healthy individuals over the age of 75 to request assisted suicide, if they have had a “strong death wish for at least two months,” according to DutchNews.nl.
Opponents of the legislation have argued that it preys on lonely and possibly depressed elderly people, who need support and resources rather than offers of suicide.
The KNMG Royal Dutch Medical Association has voiced opposition to the proposal, as have both Christian parties in government.
DutchNews.nl reports that the legislation must be reviewed by the Raad van State judicial advisory committee before a potential debate and vote next year.
A 2016 attempt to pass a similar bill also faced opposition.
Assisted suicide laws in the Netherlands have been a subject of controversy, as critics argue that safeguards intended to protect the vulnerable are not always followed.
Earlier this year, a doctor in the Netherlands was cleared of murder after euthanizing a woman with advanced Alzheimer’s who repeatedly said that she did not want to die.
Macdonald warned that the latest proposal “would further liberalise the most liberal assisted dying laws in the world and risks introducing euthanasia on demand for anybody at any time.”
“No doubt those advocating for this change will try to talk about safeguards, but these are illusionary and temporary,” he said.
Care Not Killing, the alliance which Macdonald heads, unites more than 40 health care groups, disability rights organizations, faith-based groups, and other entities to promote palliative care and oppose the weakening of safeguards against euthanasia and assisted suicide.