July 1, 2022

Completed lives: a Dutch explanation

The concept of a “completed life” which deserves voluntary euthanasia is a controversial one. The Dutch group Of Free Will , which is campaigning for its legalisation, has explained the reasoning behind the movement in an English-language pamphlet, “The self-chosen death of the elderly”. It was written by Wouter Beekman and translated with the help of a grant from the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS), in the UK.

The concept of a “completed life” which deserves voluntary euthanasia is a controversial one. The Dutch group Of Free Will , which is campaigning for its legalisation, has explained the reasoning behind the movement in an English-language pamphlet, “The self-chosen death of the elderly”. It was written by Wouter Beekman and translated with the help of a grant from the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS), in the UK.

The booklet makes a few striking points.

* Autonomy is the fundamental value of Western civilisation. The requirement for a doctor to be part of the process of choosing death is patronising and paternalistic. Of Free Will calls for credentialed “counsellors in dying”.

* A self-chosen death is explicitly framed as a post-Christian phenomenon. “Of Free Will does not assume a Christian morality but the idea of a free and responsible human being. In this perspective the assistance with dignified suicide of the elderly on request is a deed of humanity and solidarity.”

* Fears of elder abuse are completely unjustified. “The elderly as a rule are very well capable to defend themselves against possible pressure by their nearest or by society. Elderly people who are attached to life, do not allow others to drive them to death.”

* The proposal has been criticised for setting an age limit of 70 for eligibility for a self-chosen death. Why not younger people? The group evades the question: “we only work toward dying assistance for the elderly”.

* There need to be two laws: a euthanasia law for people with unbearable suffering, and a “Dying assistance for the elderly” for people with a poor quality of life.

Michael Cook

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completed life
euthanasia
Netherlands