We are sleep walking into legalising euthanasia

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Dutch Ethics Professor, Theo Boer, who changed his mind on euthanasia.

Last August, a case came to trial in the Netherlands which underscored the full horror of legalising euthanasia. If you have an uneasy feeling that this country is sleep-walking into the legalised killing of elderly and sick people, then you need to read on.

The case involved a 74-year old woman who was put to death in 2016. The lady in question suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and had previously expressed a desire to have her life ended if her illness had progressed significantly. That’s a dreadfully sad thing to hear, mostly because elderly people are increasingly making these decisions under duress. They are fearful of being a burden, of having no-one to care for them, or worse having no-one to love them.

Just like with abortion, the demand for assisted suicide is mostly being driven by a dearth of love in the world. What does that say about where we are headed as a society?

In this case, however, the woman had added a caveat to her instructions. “I want to be able to decide (when to die) while still in my senses and when I think the time is right,” she had said.

That didn’t happen. When she was eventually taken into care, a doctor made the decision that she qualified for assisted suicide, but did not share this with his patient. Instead, a sedative was put into her coffee to render her unconscious and her husband and daughter had been asked to be present when the lethal injection was to be administered.

This is where the already shocking case becomes even more nightmarish. The sedative didn’t work properly, and the elderly woman woke up during the euthanasia procedure. As John McGuirk wrote on Gript.ie: “The woman came to her senses and realised that her doctor was trying to kill her. She asked her family to stop the doctor. Her family did not stop the doctor. Instead, her own daughter and her own husband held her down while she struggled, and (this may be emotive, but it is true) fought for her life. It was a fight that she lost.”

It was a deeply disturbing, upsetting and profoundly revealing case. But the worst is to come.

The court ruled that the doctor hadn’t broken the law – and, in fact, declared he had acted in the woman’s “best interests” and was not in any way negligent.

Euthanasia isn’t so much a slippery slope as a fast descent into a bleak and horrifying landscape.

The same people who pushed abortion in Ireland are now busy telling us that we must legalise assisted suicide too. Death is the only solution they ever seem to offer, dressing up killing as compassion, pretending that ending life is healthcare.

You would imagine listening to the Irish media that palliative care didn’t exist or that the experience of other countries had only ever been positive.

The truth is that euthanasia has already spiralled out of control in many countries – with people now being assisted in ending their lives for treatable illnesses including depression. In Belgium, young children are being euthanised because they suffer from conditions such as cystic fibrosis, and euthanasia as young as 16 for psychiatric suffering is indeed legal in the Netherlands.

Ethics expert Prof. Theo Boer, who previously supported legalised euthanasia in the Netherlands, now says patients and doctors are being pressured into ending lives. Death on demand has become normalised – and is fast becoming an accepted response to mental health issues now so prevalent amongst younger people. How can we hope that suicide prevention measures can work if we are actively promoting suicide facilitation as a medical response to all kinds of illnesses and conditions?

On May 23rd (though that date may change given the Coronaviorus) Life Institute will host an important conference entitled ‘The Case against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide’. It should be an important awareness event to warn the country against sleepwalking into legalising another life-ending procedure that will cause enormous hurt and harm.

Call the Life Institute on 01 8730465 for more information.