Affirming Dignity

A humane society cares for its sick and old. What does this look like and what role should law and policy play in shaping a culture that values all life? What does ‘dying with dignity’ really mean? In Belgium and the Netherlands, the phrase has become a synonym for euthanasia. In countries where euthanasia is legalized, it is done not only in cases of terminal illness, but also in non-terminal situations and for psychological suffering, such as depression. Euthanasia without an age limit is legal in Belgium, and has been legalized for minors over 12 years of age in the Netherlands.

It doesn’t stop there. New legislative proposals are under review in both countries that aim to: allow euthanasia for people who are simply ‘tired of life’ (Netherlands); perform euthanasia on patients who are unable to express their will (Belgium); oblige doctors refer patients to other doctors where they do not wish to perform euthanasia (Belgium).

The law is vague and experience shows it inevitably leads to abuses.  It leads to a slippery slope that has no logical stopping point. In countries that legalize the practice, there is a growing demand in an increasing number and types of situations. A fading willingness to care for the sick and the old, and a growing culture of impunity for euthanasia performed outside the law are all concerning symptoms of this trend.

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