Most of the western world practices euthanasia in one form or another. In most western nations, “stealth euthanasia” and euthanasia by omission are common (see Definitions). In some jurisdictions, euthanasia by lethal injection or self-administered pills (a.k.a. assisted suicide) is legally permitted. At this writing, euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Columbia and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in five U.S. states and Washington, D.C., Switzerland, and Germany.
Euthanasia advocates often point to Holland, where euthanasia has been practiced longer than in any other country, as an example of how voluntary euthanasia can work without abuse. The facts indicate otherwise.
For many years, euthanasia was practiced in The Netherlands without being codified in law. In 2002, Holland legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, but only when a patient was terminally ill and suffering from uncontrollable pain—the two conditions most often cited to justify voluntary euthanasia. Now the law applies to people who are not near death—people of all ages with mental illnesses and chronic conditions, infants with disabilities and the elderly with dementia, and even people who are just “tired of living.” This is a perfect example of what is meant by the “slippery slope.” Once a country starts allowing people to be killed, where does it stop? According to the most recently compiled statistics for Holland, in 2015 there were 6,672 deaths by euthanasia, 150 by assisted suicide, and 431 lives were ended “without explicit request” (non-voluntary euthanasia).1 These were reported deaths. How many more were unreported?
Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2003 and now allows euthanizing people for just about any reason, including loneliness, autism and even fear of blindness or old age.
A growing percentage of people who are euthanized in Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries have treatable physical and psychological disorders.
Quebec legalized assisted suicide in 2015 and six months later all of Canada followed suit. Within a year there were over 1,300 deaths reported as a result.2
In Switzerland, assisted suicide is permitted as long as no one profits from it. Dignitas provides lethal drugs to people who want to kill themselves. Many Europeans, from countries where anyone assisting a suicide is liable for murder, have travelled to Switzerland to end their lives.
Problems with Legalization
The Oregon and Washington laws are a recipe for elder abuse and encourage people with years to live to throw away their lives. In Oregon, there are documented cases of the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) steering patients to physician-assisted suicide via coverage incentives. Oregon’s conventional suicide rate has increased with legalization of assisted suicide, which is consistent with a suicide contagion. Patients and families are traumatized.
The Oregon and Washington laws require the death certificate to be falsified to reflect a natural death via a terminal disease, as opposed to the actual cause of death, a lethal dose. The significance is a lack of transparency and an inability to take legal action against overreaching parties.
Trauma for Patients and Families
In 2012, a study was published addressing trauma suffered by people who witnessed a legal assisted suicide in Switzerland. The study found that one out of five family members or friends present at an assisted suicide were traumatized. These people "[E]xperienced full or sub-threshold PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) related to the loss of a close person through assisted suicide."
A Push for Expansion
In Oregon and Washington State, there have been proposals to expand “eligibility” for assisted suicide. The most disturbing was a Seattle Times column casually suggesting euthanasia for people unable to support themselves, which would be non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia.
1CBS Statistics Netherlands 5/24/2017, http://statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLen&PA=81655ENG&LA=en | 2 Ireland, Nicole, “1,300 Canadians have died with medical assistance since legalization—here’s one man’s story,” CBC News, 4/20/2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/medically-assisted-dying-canadians-rob-rollins-1.4056700 | 3 https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2017-03-06/debates/D4662B1E-E4DA- 40BF-99F1-254F2E14D8FF/AssistedDying