Euthanasia, or a ‘good death’, is a heated topic in the Netherlands, which is known for its liberal views. The Dutch approach reflects a strong belief in freedom and personal choice. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002, and has one of the most progressive euthanasia laws in the world.
Euthanasia is allowed under strict conditions: the patient must endure unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement, the request must be voluntary and well-considered, and the patient must be fully informed. The decision must be supported by at least two doctors to ensure a thorough and ethical process. The same criteria apply to euthanasia for patients who suffer unbearably from dementia or for psychiatric reasons, such as major depression or personality disorders, which are rare and subject to strict safeguards.
However, the debate doesn’t stop there. A social and political discussion is currently underway about extending the right of euthanasia to the elderly who feel their lives are complete, even in the absence of severe illness. This is groundbreaking, even for the Netherlands.
Critics worry this could put pressure on older people, who feel they are a burden, to choose euthanasia. Supporters argue that it’s all about personal freedom: a person’s sense of a fulfilled life, devoid of suffering, should be respected and the right to a dignified end is a fundamental aspect of personal freedom. Research commissioned by the government found that over 10,000 Dutch people aged 55 and over (out of 21,000 participants in the study) would consider euthanasia when they feel their lives are completed.
This debate shows how the Netherlands continues to push the boundaries when it comes to personal freedom. It’s a complex issue, as it highlights the delicate balance between safeguarding vulnerable individuals and honouring the deeply-held Dutch value of self-determination. As this debate continues, the Netherlands remains at the forefront, navigating the complex interplay of ethical, moral and personal freedoms.