The letter says the details remain to be worked out but it will let people who “have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them.”
The proposal comes as a surprise, as a commission enlisted to study the idea of allowing a “completed life” extension to current policy concluded there was no need for it. The ministers disagreed, saying that it is “a legitimate request” to seek assistance for dying for “people who suffer unbearably and have no hope without an underlying medical reason.”
Health Minister Edith Schippers wrote in the letter that “because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly, the new system will be limited to” them.
The new law, like previous laws, will require “careful guidance and vetting ahead of time with a 'death assistance provider' with a medical background, who has also been given additional training.” The law is supposed to include safety mechanisms including third-party checks, reviews and supervision.
Critics say Dutch euthanasia practice has already expanded beyond the borders originally envisioned for it, with “unbearable suffering” not only applying to people with terminal diseases, but also to some with mental illnesses and dementia.
The euthanasia policy has widespread backing in Dutch society. Cases have risen by double digits every year for more than a decade as more patients request it and more doctors are willing to carry it out. Euthanasia accounted for 5,516 deaths in the Netherlands in 2015, or 3.9 percent of all deaths nationwide.
What will come next? Assisted suicide for people wanting to end their lives because of failed marriages and failed investments?