The advance of euthanasia in the Netherlands

by Valentina Ascione - 2012.10.03
The advance of euthanasia in the Netherlands
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559 assisted suicides more than in the previous year. These are the figures announced by the Commission on euthanasia of the Dutch Government, according to which the cases signalled by practitioners in 2011 accounted for 2.7 per cent of total deaths, against 2.3 percent in 2012. According to Nicol Visee, secretary of the commission, this rise does not have a clear or univocal explanation but may result from a variety of factors: a different attitude of public opinion on the matter, for example, or the progressive population aging. The fact remains that Dutch citizens are one of the few who can legally resort to euthanasia in their own country.

Pioneer in Europe, with a law issued in 2002, the Netherlands explicitly guarantee to its citizens the right to interrupt treatment if they want to or can no longer stand their disease. The same right has been then recognized in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. This latter rejected a few days ago a proposal to ban assisted suicide to foreigners in its territory, thus confirming the outcome of a popular referendum held last year. After all, there is no risk that the country can be invaded by ‘mild death’ tourists: in the last few years, the number of sick persons - mainly from France, Germany and the UK -  emigrating to Switzerland to appeal to the assisted suicide law for a decent and aware end of life (even in the most serious cases of depression) was cut by half. If in 2006 there were 199 cases of euthanasia among extra-EU citizens, in 2010 this number dropped to 97. Perhaps because, over the years, other European countries have authorized treatment interruption in different ways, while in others euthanasia is still a topic in political and social debate. This is the case of France, where President Hollande announced a palliative care reform last summer. Not the case of Italy, though. "Euthanasia" still remains an unrepeatable word here. Meanwhile, Vatican’s spokespersons in Parliament, probably alarmed by the refusal of any form of therapeutic obstinacy opposed by cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, push for the approval of a law on the living will with dubious constitutional outlines.

Published in Euthanasia.
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