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Correspondence

From Mercy Killing to Euthanasia

Letter From the Netherlands

In late 2000, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia.  Under the law, passed by the lower house of the Dutch Parliament 104-40, a child as young as 12 can request to be put to death, provided he has at least one parent’s consent.

In 1999 alone, according to the Associated Press (July 13, 2000), 2,216 Netherlanders died from euthanasia or “physician-assisted suicide,” usually through lethal injection.  The new law simply formalized the guidelines that had been in place since 1994, requiring that patients must be suffering unbearable pain, be told of all available options, and make the request to die of their own accord, unprompted by a doctor.  Doctors must also obtain a second opinion and report each case.

The NVVE (Nederlandse Vereniging voor een Vrijwillig Levenseinde, the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society) boldly proclaimed that the new law would be a step toward public acceptance of the “right to die”—not just for patients at late stages of serious illness but for anyone who expected “not to be able to die [in a] dignified [manner].”  The society argued that it was simply defending a “human basic right—if you can choose what kind of house you’re going to live in and things like that, why can you not choose what death?  It’s an individual choice . . . your life.”

Even without resorting...

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