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The Netherlands to push assisted suicide for 'completed life'

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The Dutch government is to draft a law that would allow assisted suicide for those who feel their life is 'complete' – even if they are not terminally ill.

Dutch health and justice ministers argued in a letter to the country’s parliament that details remain to be worked out, but that people who "have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them".

Since euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002 – the first country in the world to do so - cases have risen sharply as more patients request it. Euthanasia accounted for 5,516 deaths in the Netherlands in 2015. This is almost four percent of all deaths nationwide.

Christian Concern’s Chief Executive, Andrea Williams, said that these proposals are an "inevitable consequence" of legalising assisted suicide, and reinstated the need to continue opposing its introduction in the UK.

'No need for it'

A recent commission enlisted to study the idea of allowing a "completed life" extension to current policy concluded there was no need for it. The proposal to introduce it therefore comes as a surprise.

Ministers hope to draft a law, in consultation with doctors, ethicists and other experts, by the end of 2017.

"The Cabinet is of the opinion that a request for help (in dying) from people who suffer unbearably and have no hope without an underlying medical reason can be a legitimate request", they said.

Edith Schippers, health minister, wrote in the letter to the Dutch parliament that "because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly, the new system will be limited to them". However, no age threshold was specified, meaning that while the system may initially only be available for the elderly, this may change over time.

Euthanasia for psychological conditions

Currently, euthanasia in the Netherlands is only permitted for "unbearable suffering", although this is interpreted to mean not only terminal illness, but mental illness and conditions like dementia.

There is even an organisation, Amersterdam’s End of Life clinic, which sends mobile euthanasia teams to perform doctor-assisted suicide on patients in their own homes. Some of those who request this service are those with mental conditions and have previously been denied assisted suicide by their GP.

When the End of Life clinic opened in 2012, the first patient was a woman who suffered with a phobia of germs (mysophobia), according to Dr Stephen Pleiter, the clinic’s director.

The 54-year-old woman who suffered from mysophobia reportedly satisfied this criteria and was killed by lethal injection in her own home.

The diminishing of human life

The attitude towards human life in the Netherlands has extended to several other countries.

Euthanasia is now legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Columbia. In Belgium alone, almost 5% of all deaths are by euthanasia.

Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and in the American states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

Following supportive remarks made by a Belgian lawmaker in September with regards to euthanasia, Christian leader Albert Mohler responded: "[The legislator] says 'those people' and 'that situation,' referring to those who become the victims of euthanasia and to that situation presumably being a situation that could involve end-of-life questions with terminal illness or incurable suffering or any number of other issues.

"It's all reduced here merely to 'those people' and 'that situation.' Why is that problematic? It's problematic because 'those people' are not acknowledged in this kind of language to be human beings, each and every one of whom is made in the image of God. Human life is simply diminished in this case to 'those people'." 

Related Links: 
Teenager becomes first 'legally killed' minor in Belgium  
The culture of death advances: A child euthanized in Belgium (Al Mohler)  
Dutch may allow assisted suicide for those who feel they have 'completed life' (Telegraph)