European Conservatives attack Dutch euthanasia law

29 April 2005

European Conservatives attack Dutch euthanasia law

At this week's meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), furious conservative parliamentarians from throughout Europe launched a fierce attack on the Netherlands' euthanasia policy.

A report calling for far-reaching improvements to the quality of palliative care offered to terminal patients, and at the same time for euthanasia to be brought out of the shadows and properly regulated, was torn to shreds by a torrent of amendments. In the end, even the report's original author voted against, so unrecognisable was the text. In this he was supported by Dutch Senators from across the political spectrum – from the right-wing liberal VVD to the Labour Party (PvdA) and the SP.

They had their hands full defending the Netherlands from accusations which included the claim that thousands of people have been subjected to euthanasia without their having requested it. The British member Baroness Knight even asserted that sick children were walking around with unnecessary declarations that they wanted to die in their pockets. SP Senator Tiny Kox told her not to believe everything she read in the papers and instead to come and see for herself. The Netherlands can be proud, Kox said, that it was able to deal openly with the reality of something which certainly happened in other European countries.

Senator Kox was not, however, without his own criticisms of his country: “Registration of euthanasia cases is unsatisfactory. There have been improvements in palliative care, but these are still nowhere near sufficient. Health care is inadequate because of cuts in spending compounded by bad management. That can give people the feeling that they have become a burden on the society.” This should never happen, said the SP representative, adding that “to die in a dignified manner belongs in our opinion to the right of human dignity. But it should never be looked at in isolation. The right to die with dignity is irrevocably bound to the right to live in dignity.”

He also argued that the attacks on the Dutch law demonstrated how important it was to defend a country's right to make its own laws. “If it was up to Berlusconi's Italians or others on the right, nothing would be left of this.”

At the end of the debate scuffling broke out when some Italian representatives threatened a Luxembourg member of the Assembly. According to reports, the Italians were flown in at the cost of the Belusconi regime to ensure that enough opponents of the euthanasia report would be on hand to ensure its defeat.

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