When I found out that euthanasia in the Netherlands is not only legal, but almost a common practice in certain cases, I was really impressed. As I grew up, I watched people around me -either in my own social circle or on the news- get sick or have terrible accidents and suffer for months or years, until they eventually died. I also heard grownups say things like “what kind of life is that!” or “they’d be better off dead”. The suffering of the family members of the unfortunate person was also often mentioned. This has led to a few of my relatives saying that they ‘d rather be euthanized, if it came to that much suffering or being in a long-term coma. The question is, would they really make that choice, if there was the option?
Life is sweet after all…
One of the things that I love in this country is how easy it is to find official information in English. So when I started researching this topic, all I had to do to find out about euthanasia in the Netherlands, was to read the info on the government website. According to this page, euthanasia can be legally performed in case of extreme suffering and no signs of improvement of the patient’s health. If a physician does not feel comfortable to perform an euthanasia, he or she is not obliged to. Fair enough, if you ask me.
Euthanasia in the netherlands: Legally DIY: Assisted Suicide
A very interesting concept included in the Dutch euthanasia law is that of assisted suicide. This means that the doctor provides the drug, but the patient administers it. In Greece, where I come from, if a person wants to end their life due to suffering, they have to try and illegally source the drugs, which very few doctors-if any- risk to give. If they get caught, this means the end of their career. If me or a loved one suffered with no end in sight, I would definitely love to have the option to put an end to it. And I am grateful that I could do so, living in the Netherlands. But not everyone agrees with me.
Many religions -all forms of Christianity that I know of included- see suicide as a great sin. In fact, in the case of the Orthodox Church that I am familiar with, priests inform the flock that anyone who commits suicide will go straight to Hell. The idea behind this concept of sin is that God offered us the gift of life and we should not waste it. Pardon me if I upset some of you, but I have seen many people who are so miserable, that hell couldn’t be much worse anyway.
Southpark’s idea of hell might not exactly coincide with the Christian one…
Euthanasia on the rise
Euthanasia in the Netherlands was legalized back in 2002. In the decade that followed, medical euthanasia doubled and has risen by 13% the last year. It is mainly cancer patients who seek this way to end their suffering. What happens, however, in the cases of people with dementia or serious mental issues? Is the individual really able to think rationally and choose death? And how can we be sure that their social environment does not pressure them to make such a decision? Of course, there is an intricate system of evaluations and committees, that serve as a protection mechanism for the sick individuals. But are there real guarantees?
Well, the way I see it, if you are so unfortunate and unable to make your own decisions and your family wants to get rid of you, they will find a way. It does not matter if euthanasia is legal or not. There are certainly other ways, that can be much less humane. If I were a burden for my family, I’d rather slip in a deep coma and die in my sleep, rather than get essentially killed by neglect. But that’s just me and I’d love to know what you think about it.
Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Tired of life after seventy?
Monty Python knew the truth.
In 2010 a group of Dutch citizens was formed, that requested that everyone over the age of seventy should have the right of euthanasia in the Netherlands. Their request did not manage to make it into the Dutch legislation. One of the main arguments of this group is that many elderly people suffer from depression due to a sense of lack of purpose in life. Seeing all your loved ones die, as you grow older is not pleasant either. And this is partly why so many elderly people commit suicide. Euthanasia could put an end to all those suicides, the group claimed. You can read more about it here. I find that having a choice is most of the times a blessing, so it sounds like a great idea to me, but I do realize that there are factors like social pressure that need to be taken into consideration. For example, if an elderly person wanted to live to be 100 but their friends chose assisted suicide and their family kept asking them “isn’t your life complete yet?!”, I am worried that people could be guilt-tripped into ending their life.
What do you think about it?
i think that the solution is not giving people choice (every human already has that choice)… addressing the problem would be addressing why we neglect the elderly and changing society to make sure that they are not neglected. Giving people choice here is encouraging sucide. I understand that there are cases where it makes the most sense, but society still should not encorage it.. every human has the ablity to end their life if they choose to.. society does not need to support it. Drugs, or chemicals that will kill you are not that hard to find. Societies role should be to focus on helping those that are here to enjoy the time they have left..
That is an interesting way to look at it Jinna, but I am not sure I agree with you. Yes, suicide is an option, but not everyone is up for it (I mean from the people who really suffer) and in many cases the people are just not able to do it (because they are unable to move, for example). And I know that especially in Greece, finding medication that can offer death without much suffering is really-really hard. This means that if someone is determined to put an end to their life, they have to suffer till their last moment. I find this quite cruel. I agree that encouraging euthanasia after a certain age puts a lot of social pressure to the elderly though, so in that case I can see how it could be considered an encouragement towards suicide.
great article though
Thank you Jinna 🙂
That last part is probably part of the reason why euthanasia isn’t legal everywhere. Where do you draw the line? The line has been drawn, but there are still people who feel it should be different (both in terms of wider terms and that it shouldn’t happen at all). Dying of old age should be the norm, shouldn’t it? Naturally speaking? Of course, if you’re terminally ill then there’s euthanasia again, but just because you’re older doesn’t mean “that’s that”. Sense of purpose? Legions of people have no sense of purpose in life, teenagers and elderly alike, should we all be able euthanise ourselves?
Thank you for taking the time to comment Andi!
To me, it is really confusing what is natural and what is not. Is it natural to survive while taking tons of synthetic medication? Maybe it is, since it is the human brain that came up with all that medication. And the human brain is made by nature. I feel, however, that even if people started to massively commit suicide, we wouldn’t exactly be missed by the global ecosystem. Overpopulation is a very real problem. Could it be, that by trying to live as much as possible and forcing people to stay alive, we are just being selfish? Like you said, where do you draw the line? I never want my grandparents to die, for example, so even though they get sicker and sicker, my family tries to offer them the best care and psychological support possible. But are they really enjoying life or do we convince ourselves that they are, because the pain of losing them would be greater than the effort we put to keep them alive? I have no answers to those questions and really enjoy reading what all of you think.
Yes, I agree with you on those points. But when you go in that direction, “regular” suicide falls in that same category. The only reason it’s frowned upon seems to me (besides the religious aspect), to be the fact that people are so bent on not losing people, not wanting them to leave.. even though someone has been breaking down right before them and sees no way/reason to live any longer. Now this whole topic can be stretched out to a lot of neighbouring subjects, such as: what does quality of life mean? Who decides what’s right or what isn’t? How far should you go to save a life? How far should you go to add quality to someone’s life? Subjects like these are also discussed in my study, the difficult thing for me is that I see both sides of the coin as equally true. It’s hard to pick the “best truth”. Every side, no matter what side you choose for what reason, will get a lot of adversary. Although often people like you said, cling on to life so badly, that most people will frown most upon the argument that is FOR euthanasia/death. Life is apparently holy. Though I see no point in life in general, so I don’t have that problem 😛 I’m just sort of worried about international outrage towards possible policies that might also kill our society and the way anybody might look at life. Life isn’t for everyone, but if you got so far in life, what’s the problem in riding it out?
Am I still making sense?
You are making sense, at least to me, and I find your stream of thought very interesting! I just wanted to add that for me, it is ridiculous to have so many countries where the death penalty is legal and euthanasia is not. People are really eager to get rid of those they don’t like and really hesitant to let go of those they love. Sounds “natural”, right? But is it civilized? 😀 as if this wasn’t complex enough….
Glad to know I still made sense, haha. I’m a very chaotic thinker so sometimes it’s very hard to organize my thoughts enough for others to understand what I’m talking about. You make a good point there…
I’ve been thinking a lot about these things lately, but also the difference with earlier times. Where people got publicly executed or shamed, we developed a lot since then, but is what we do now really that much different orrr better? Where does this whole notion that we have to punish people come from anyway? Is killing people part of nature’s flow? Other animals do it, why is are we so conscious about our species doing it? Except of course when it is about someone who hurt someone “innocent”, then it becomes perfectly acceptable all of a sudden, if the right person executes it.
Maybe I should head to bed xD
Aaahh that’s a nice portion of food for thought you just served us here! 🙂
This is the first time I get to share these thoughts. I feel satisfied…