Bioethics News

Celebrating Dutch euthanasia

Oh no; not again. Sorry: about half of our articles this week are about euthanasia, most of them about the Netherlands. I know that there are other issues, but this time I shall blame the news cycle. NVVE, the leading Dutch right-to-die group, is celebrating 15 years of Dutch euthanasia this week.

Depending on your point of view, the festivities are either premature or long overdue. The law legalising euthanasia in the Netherlands came into effect on April 1, 2002, which means that NVVE is actually celebrating the beginning of the 15th year.

On the other hand, euthanasia was effectively legal in the Netherlands for decades before that. A 1991 government study, the Remmelink Report, found that in 1990 there had been 2,300 cases of voluntary euthanasia, 400 cases of assisted suicide, and 1,040 cases of involuntary euthanasia. That was 25 years ago, so perhaps that is a better baseline for the celebration. 

Legalisation clearly has drawbacks, though. The number of cases of illegal, involuntary euthanasia is no longer included in official government statistics. O for the candour of the Remmelink Report! 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.