Bioethics News

The Netherlands is normalising euthanasia, says Dutch ethicist

A former member of a euthanasia review board in the Netherlands has written a stinging attack on the policy he once formed part of.

Dr Theo de Boer, professor of health care ethics at the Theological University in Kampen and associate professor of ethics at the Protestant Theological University in Groningen, speaks from a unique perspective. Not only was he involved in the adminstration of legalised euthanasia, he is also intimately familiar with arguments put forward by some Christian theologians to justify it.

Writing in the American Protestant magazine Christian Century this week, Dr de Boer says that  from 2005 to 2014, he reviewed nearly 4,000 cases of assisted dying as a member of one of the five Dutch regional committees. He thought it was a “robust and humane system” and defended it at ecumenical gatherings.

However, in 2007, he says that the pace of euthanasia began to accelerate, rising by 15 percent each year. As the numbers soared, the criteria expanded. Even children became eligible. The biggest change was the reason for requesting death. Originally defenders of assisted dying described heart-breaking stories of tormented patients  who just wanted to die peacefully. But this changed. Nowadays, many people simply want to take an early exit from loneliness or bereavement or meaninglessness.

Although some patients still request assisted dying out of fear of ineffective palliative care, an increasing number see euthanasia as the form of a good death after a trajectory of good palliative care. The unbearable suffering that they refer to increasingly consists of meaningless waiting rather than physical suffering.

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.