Friday 21 February 2020

MPs debate right to die proposals amid mounting criticism

Pensioners on a bench

MPs on Wednesday held their first debate on the government’s plans to legalise assisted suicide for elderly people who consider their lives to be complete.

The proposal follows years of discussion in parliament and in society at large about the right of people who consider their lives have reached the end to die peacefully.

Outlining the plans earlier this month, health minister Edith Schippers and justice minister Ard van de Steur said people who feel their ‘life has been completed’ should get the legal right to die with the help of a specialist care worker.

‘Elderly’ people with a consistent and well-considered wish to die – whether ill or not – should be able to take a drug to end their lives, the ministers said.

Opposition

The cabinet plans go against recommendations made by an independent committee of experts who said earlier this year that euthanasia for people who consider their lives to be completed should not be allowed in law.

Schippers said during Wednesday’s debate that she wanted wide ranging talks with interest groups before establishing if there should be an age limit.

The government’s plan, which will take years to become law, is supported by the opposition Liberal democratic party D66 but opposed by all three Christian parties as well as the Socialists and anti-Islam PVV.

Independence

Meanwhile, 85-year-old pensioner Hanny van der Velde told broadcaster NOS that she considers the proposal to be ‘terrible’, because it still involves a third party. ‘I want real independence,’ she said.

‘Politicians are deciding about old people, when they are not old themselves,’ she said. ‘What do they know?’

Good quality care

Nienke Nieuwenhuizen, chairwoman of the geriatric medicine association Verenso, is also highly criticial of the plans.

‘How can we draw up criteria for a ‘completed life’ when we can’t even ensure good quality care?’ she told the broadcaster.

‘Every day I speak to elderly people who ask me what reason there is to go on living. They constantly hear they are expensive and a costly burden. What sort of message are we sending out?’

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