On February 9, the Dutch Parliament approved the most liberal euthanasia laws in Europe. This legislation must still be approved by the upper house but the observers feel it will not face stiff opposition.

For years, euthanasia has been accepted in Holland but removal of life-support systems has been going unpunished for years and the new bill will remove the possibility of any legal action against doctors who perform euthanasia. They must, however, first follow the list if regulations found in the legislation. These guidelines appear strict but observers feel that they will be given a liberal interpretation. Among some of the notable regulation are:

  • The request for euthanasia must come voluntarily from the patient and not from the patient’s family or friends.
  • The illness must be deemed “perpetual, unbearable and hopeless,” though who determines this has not been decided.
  • The patient must also be provided with alternatives.
  • A waiting period of undetermined length must be provided.
  • The doctor must consult another physician.
  • The case must be carefully documented.

Fred den Boef of the Christian Reformed Political Party voiced the concerns of those who oppose the legislation. “[The legislation] will eventually lead to a situation in which more steps are taken, boundaries will fade away and human life will lose protection under the law.”

He and others who oppose the legislation feel that the legalization of euthanasia will lead to its widespread abuse. They feel that the regulations will not be strictly followed or enforced and the law should be scrapped.

However, the Dutch Society for Voluntary Euthanasia are pushing for looser laws which allow full legalization without restriction. It has been estimated that between 2,300 to 10,000 people die by euthanasia per year. This number will rise sharply under the new legislation and many are concerned about this rise.

This law is of particular interest to Canadians as the euthanasia debate is currently being battled in the courts and parliament. Sue Rodriguez, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, is petitioning the courts to allow her to end her life. There are also several Private Members’ Bills before Parliament concerning the issue.