On Tuesday, the Dutch government announced they will be expanding euthanasia laws to include children ages one to 12. Previously, the country allowed euthanasia – the ending of someone’s life under a doctor’s supervision – for infants under one year of age. For those over 12, it was legal with the consent of the patient and parents. Those over the age of 16 can give consent on their own. It was announced that the new changes would be implemented in the next several months. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia for the terminally ill in 2002, and since then, the laws surrounding such have loosened and become more expansive. The laws now include those with “non-terminal chronic illnesses, disabilities, and mental-health problems.” The most recent decision has been extremely controversial and has received varying responses from the country’s four political parties.
The Left argues that the issue is “complicated.” The Dutch Minister of Health, Hugo de Jong, argues that such laws should be permitted for “a small group of terminally ill children who agonize with no hope and unbearable suffering.” Many believe that “human beings should have the right to be able to decide when and how they die” and that “death is a private matter” in which the state should not have a say. Some argue that it is simply palliative care or care given to patients with serious or life-threatening diseases in order to “relieve suffering.” According to a Gallup poll from 2018, which was consistent with other recent previous polls, “Democrats and liberals are especially likely to favor” legalized euthanasia.
The Right disagrees. “Once death is in the driver’s seat, it never hits the brakes,” wrote attorney and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith. He noted that inducing a coma and forcing dehydration are not palliative care but rather “slow-motion euthanasia.” Alexander Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, argues, “Euthanasia laws seem to naturally expand over time. Once you allow killing for one reason, there become many reasons to kill.” Willem Eijk, a Dutch cardinal of the Catholic church, said that those wanting to be euthanized are displaying “a cry for help” that the church should heed by speaking the truth that euthanasia is a violation of the “value of human life” and caring for the individual in need.
“When patients who are suffering are seen as problems to be fixed, rather than whole persons to be cared for, we have set ourselves up for a situation that is damaging to the profession and to our society as a whole. We’re all on this slippery slope.”Dr. Ira Byock, Leading Palliative Care Physician