Choosing to die: Euthanasia

I am now officially a writer for Dutch Review and I find it quite fascinating to write about the way expats in the Netherlands view certain aspects of life in the Netherlands. My first article was about surviving as a vegan in the Netherlands and this second one is about euthanasia.

Euthanasia in the Netherlands is legal. Personally I find this positive and fascinating but there is also the dark side of the moon. If you take the time to read the article, do read through the comments as well. An interesting discussion unfolds there.

Hieronymous Bosch, Center panel, 'The Garden of Earthly Delights', circa 1504

Hieronymous Bosch, Center panel, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, circa 1504

Today I went for a coffee with my dearest friend M. and we had the chance to talk some more about euthanasia. I will not elaborate a lot on it, but I would like to share with you some points that made me think further about life and death, in case of suffering. Surely, this is not a light or particularly pleasant subject, but it is something worth thinking beforehand. So, here are some things to reflect on:

  • If a person is suffering from serious mental illness, like heavy dementia, and they are not themselves anymore, should the family be able to choose euthanasia for them? Could doctors establish a safe set of criteria that could guarantee -to some extend- that the person’s state can not improve?
  • When a person we love can not communicate anymore and they are in a serious condition, like a long term coma, why do we try and keep them alive? Isn’t it selfish?
  • Elderly people with serious chronic pains and/or depression are often kept alive by their families with the help of medical interventions, but they clearly are tired of/do not enjoy life. They feel guilty of asking to be left alone, because they do not want to cause the pain of loss to their children. But to what extend to we have the right to push people to stay alive, for our own sake?
  • Does allowing euthanasia lead to a higher rate of assisted suicide? Will someone who would not choose suicide otherwise, choose to end their lives because it would be easier/painless? And if so, why is that a bad thing?
  • What should be the upper and lower age limits for someone to choose euthanasia? Is a 16 year old cancer patient, without hope of improvement, mature enough to choose euthanasia? Should they be able to sign their own papers, without help from their parents? What about a 14 year old? Where do we draw the line?
  • What happens with people with personality disorders? Should a schizophrenic be allowed to choose assisted euthanasia? Is it him making the choice or his illness?
  • Getting a bit more cynical: To what extend should we subsidize the maintenance of  elderly above the age of (let’s say) 80 years old, when there are young children who could be saved with the same amount of money, and enjoy a better quality of life?
  • If assisted suicide is allowed above the age of 60 years old for reasons that are not medical -eg if the person fills that their life is fulfilled, they have no sense of purpose, their friends are dead etc- how can elderly people be protected from social pressure? For example, if more and more people choose to end their lives at the age of 75 and someone is happily in his 80’s how can he be protected by society making him feel like a burden, just for wanting to live longer and enjoy life? That might sound crazy now, but the capitalist system really sees -and often treats- elderly people like a waste of money, so I see it very likely to happen.
  • How does the church -and different religions- feel about euthanasia? Is a terminal cancer patient, who is suffering every day, still going to hell if they choose to end their life (and suffering)?
  • If euthanasia is spread more, will it lead to poorer people choosing it, just to save their families from the financial drainage, despite their will to live?
  • How come it is OK to sentence a criminal to death (in certain countries), but not allow someone who actually wants it to die?
  • Being cynical again: Could euthanasia solve the overpopulation issue? Could it lead to a more natural approach to life and death, where we wouldn’t have thousands of brain-dead people and people been kept alive thanks to hundreds of pills?
  • On the other hand, since science has made such a huge progress, wouldn’t it be strange to negate the opportunity to live and be creative and productive until we are 100 years old? The human kind has invested hundreds of years of research on this goal.

As you can see, this can be a very-very-very complex subject. I would love to read what you think in the comments, either here or on the Dutch Review post.

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