Legalized euthanasia still divides many in The Netherlands

World Today

Legalized euthanasia still divides many in The Netherlands

Death with Dignity: it’s a term used when the terminally-ill make the decision of when to end their lives. It’s also known as physician-assisted dying, and it is legal in some countries.

CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports on the Netherlands, the first country to legalize euthanasia. But today, some opponents are arguing the culture of assisted dying may be getting out of hand.

One year ago, Dr. Jaap Schuurmans helped Wilma Fisser end her life. Today, Dr. Schuurmans is back to check in on her widower. Wilma’s case was clear-cut under Dutch law: the final stages of terminal cancer.

It’s 15 years since Holland made Wilma’s death possible by becoming the first country to legalize euthanasia. More recently, though, its use has evolved. That is worrying even its proponents.

In 1991 Dr. Boudewijn Chabot helped 50-year-old Hilly Bosscher to die: on grounds of irreversible grief. In a landmark ruling, Chabot was found guilty without punishment. Still he worries the mentally ill are increasingly at risk.

“The review committee has interpreted the law in such a way that over the past 4 years, the number of euthanasia in demented and psychiatric patients has risen 10 fold,” said Dr. Chabot, a psychiatrist.

Theo Boer resigned from that committee in 2014.

“In the years that I was on the committee – we have gradually loosened the application of the law because we discovered that there was no legal ground to forbid it,” said Boer.

In 2016, the number of medically assisted suicides leapt by 10-percent. Some Dutch politicians want those 75 years old who feel they’ve completed life to be able to choose euthanasia. The head of the Completed Life Commission says new legislation won’t be necessary.

“It was just left open so that we could say it could develop over time, with the changing of ideas in society and in the medical profession,” said Paul Schnabel, head of the Complete Life Commission.