Netherlands and Belgium: what lies at the bottom of the slippery slope

 

By Dave Andrusko

Lord Falconer

Lord Falconer

The headline over the editorial in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, is long and awkward but still on the money: “Legalisation leads to bureaucratisation, turning a matter of complex moral concern into one of legal box-ticking.” What are they talking about? Assisted suicide.

We’ve posted many stories critiquing Lord Falconer’s very dangerous bill [HL Bill 24] to legalize assisted dying, mostly written by the incomparable Peter Saunders. (See nrlc.cc/QyI3bk, nrlc.cc/QyI8Mp, and nrlc.cc/QyIbYA.)

Dr. Saunders demonstrates conclusively not only the enormous power the bill grants to doctors but also that it “effectively places them above the law.” He quoted liberally from Living and Dying Well (LDW), a public policy research organization established in 2010 (in Saunders’ words) “to promote clear thinking on the end-of-life debate and to explore the complexities surrounding ‘assisted dying’ and other end-of-life issues.”

The LDW concluded that the bill “contains no safeguards, beyond stating eligibility criteria, to govern the assessment of requests for assisted suicide.” Furthermore, it “relegates important questions such as how mental capacity and clear and settled intent are to be established to codes of practice to be drawn up after an assisted suicide law has been approved by Parliament.”

In Saunders’ apt words, “The so-called ‘safeguards’ in Falconer’s bill are bad enough. It is already ripe for abuse and incremental extension.”

But it’s important that the popular press weigh in against Lord Falconer’s Bill as well. Even more so now that David Cameron’s government “has indicated that it would permit a free vote on a measure,” as The Telegraph editorial noted. “Unless defeated, it could be the first uncertain step.”

The fact is, as the editorial reminds readers in the first paragraph, while it is technically a criminal offense to help someone to die, “the Director of Public Prosecutions already issued guidelines four years ago to indicate that anyone who acted ‘out of compassion’ would be unlikely to face charges.” While that is a very unpleasant truth, it also explains why the editorial describes HL Bill 24 as “a measure that does not reflect a genuine need.”

The writer[s] point to the Netherlands and Belgium as an illustration of

“what lies at the bottom of that slope.” Back in 2001, the Dutch euthanasia law “was supposed to be limited to those with ‘unbearable and hopeless suffering’ whose mental faculties were acute and who had no hope of relief.” But the number of people who are euthanized has doubled, “thanks in part to the operation of mobile euthanasia units that allow people to take their own life even if family doctors have refused to offer help.”

And as we have illustrated, euthanasia/assisted suicide has run amuck in Belgium where euthanasia is the cause of one in every 50 deaths. Belgium jumped off the moral cliff when it legalized euthanasia for children regardless of age.

Indeed the euthanasia express is like a freight train racing down the tracks without brakes. “It is widely acknowledged that euthanasia is out of control in Belgium,” as Saunders has observed. There’s been “a 500% increase in cases in ten years; one third involuntary; half not reported; euthanasia for blindness, anorexia and botched sex change operations; organ transplant euthanasia; plans to extend euthanasia to children and people with dementia.” Writing before the Belgian Senate vote last February, Saunders observed, “[I]t is clear that in practice the boundaries are continually migrating and the nation’s moral conscience is shifting year on year. Call it incremental extension, mission creep or slippery slope – whatever – it is strongly in evidence in Belgium.”

Congratulations to The Telegraph for its editorial. It does a masterful job explaining how the push for euthanasia works in tandem with the “wider societal pressure for the aged or the ill to see themselves as a ‘burden’ on everybody else.” Indeed, “we are already being bombarded with messages that our population is growing unmanageably old, fostering a culture of death.” Euthanasia threatens to become seen as “normal.”

The editorial’s conclusion is spot-on:

“One of the most important principles of medicine is ‘non-maleficence,’ the ancient pledge to do no harm. The emphasis of health care must be to treasure life and safeguard it. The push for assisted suicide is a troubling challenge to that fine tradition.”

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