Euthanasia, or the medical killing of disabled and elderly individuals, became legal in the Netherlands in 2002. Technically, patients must have an advance directive or living will stating in the form of a legal document that they wish to be euthanized. But the law is now being thwarted by courts that are allowing patients to be euthanized with no such directive.
An 80-year-old woman was euthanized in the Netherlands on the flimsy grounds that her family stated she had a death wish – even though the woman had dementia, with no way of expressing the purported death wish, and had no advance directive indicating that euthanasia would have been her wish if she lost her ability to relay her desires.
And many Dutch people are exhibiting very frail wills to live through difficult circumstances. One Dutch woman with an advance directive to be euthanized, states: “I’m an autonomous person. For me, it seems a disaster not to be able to go out and visit friends, to a concert, to the theater.” And under Dutch law, that woman can choose to die when Life no longer fits her ideal. Nearly 5,000 Dutch individuals chose euthanasia in 2013 alone.
In the Netherlands, infants can be euthanized by their parents, but reports show that infant euthanasia is decreasing with the rising popularity of aborting babies diagnosed with undesirable traits in utero. So much for autonomy – these children have no say in their imposed deaths, before or after birth. Children as young as 12 can request euthanasia in the Netherlands as well.
One expert, Theo Boer, reviewed thousands of the instances of euthanasia that have occurred in the Netherlands since the legalization of the practice. Boer said that euthanasia is becoming the default means of death of cancer patients and the dying. “Cases have been reported,” he said, “in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved.” In other words, the value of Life is so lacking in the Netherlands that individuals may be choosing death over experiences –sometimes fleeting in nature – of emotional or psychological difficulty.
The problem with legalized euthanasia is not just the probability that the law will be abused by families and medical professionals. At the core, legalizing euthanasia effectively informs a country’s entire population that the official stance of the country is that certain lives do not have dignity. They are disposable once a certain degree of utility is no longer present. This is why the slippery slope occurs so quickly and severely; when the notion that certain people do not have an inherent Right to Life is introduced, every single person’s Right to Life is at risk. Either every human has dignity on the simple grounds that they are human, or no human has dignity at all.
Earlier this month, Wesley Smith, an American bioethicist and attorney, summarized a growing view that stems from the popularity of euthanasia: “There is a new view of suffering, that it’s the worst of all possible experiences, and that the role of society is to prevent it, as opposed to mitigating it.”