SP opposes new euthanasia law

11 May 2001

SP opposes new euthanasia law

The Socialist Party has voted against the new euthanasia bill. Though the SP is not opposed to euthanasia in general, the new law broadens the possibilities too much to the taste of the party. Socialist member of the Houseof Representatives Agnes Kant explains.

Agnes Kant"For starters, there are no easy answers in this matter. Of course, we do not want to deny people their right to a merciful death when they are in their final hour and in pain. The SP has no objections against euthanasia in general, only with the way the conditions are stretched. It used to be that doctors, who performed euthanasia on people, were not to be prosecuted if they had taken certain criteria in account. The patient must have been in a situation of unbearable physical suffering. Thise three were the keywords. In 1994 however, the High Council ruled in the so-called Chabot-verdict that also mental suffering was a just ground for euthanasia. Later on the ground rule was even more stretched in the case of former Member of the Senate mr. Brongersma. He was in perfect health, but as he put it ’tired of life’. He felt that ’death had forgotten all about him’. The doctor who helped him was acquitted because the judge figured that unbearable suffering is a subjective thing. That pushes aside the professional opinions of doctors and clears the way for full autonomy of the patient. Of course the wish to die is personal, but we are talking about assistance in committing suicide. That means there are more people involved and that we should look beyond what one person wants at a certain point. A request for euthanasia has got a lot to do with the quality of life, with the kind of care a person receives. With the state our healthcare is in now, the tremendously long waiting lists, the abominable standards of care in the nursery homes, the lack of district-nurses to take care of people when they leave hospital, people fear growing dependant and consider themselves a burden. Also palliative care – the care for the terminally ill – and fighting pain leave a lot to be desired. In that light it is rather cynical to broaden the possibilities for euthanasia."

Another objection is that in the new situation penal law is put at a distance. Before, every case of euthanasia was reported to the prosecutor who decided whether the doctor in question had been careful enough. Now that question is answered by a special committee who, only when in doubt, alerts the prosecution.

Furthermore, a person’s signed will – for instance saying they don’t want to live anymore in case of dementia – becomes legally valid. Kant: "That is dangerous. I’ve visited an elderly couple once. They had both signed a will when they were younger. The woman was demented and according to her will she wanted euthanasia. But she didn’t seem to suffer at all. She was relatively cheerful. This created an enormous dilemma for her husband. Euthanasia was what she once said she wanted and he felt obliged to honour that wish. So they tried to explain to her that she was to have a cup of coffee an that there would be a tablet in it to make her sleep and never wake up. ’Does that mean I’ll die?’ she asked. ’I don’t want to die.’ What if they had simply carried out her will? A will signed in the past can never replace a verbal request."

The debate in the House of Representatives took three long days. The SP pleaded not to go through with the proposed changes but instead to acknowledge the moral obligation to create a society in which everyone can have a humane life an in which euthanasia is not a common option. No one but the Christian opposition parties agreed.

You are here