Dutch legislators have proposed a new law that would allow healthy elderly people to seek out assisted suicide even if they have no physical or mental illness, a new letter to parliament reads.
Health and justice ministers argued that individuals 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 newly proposed law expands on the country’s existing euthanasia laws enacted in 2002, which allow assisted suicide for people who can convince two physicians they are forced to endure “unbearable” suffering.
Reuters reports that the Dutch government expects to draft a law by late 2017. If it passes, the Netherlands would become the first country to legalise euthanasia for people not deemed to be suffering.
As Winston Ross reported for Newsweek early last year, the Dutch government treats euthanasia in much the same way it treats cannabis: On the books, the act comes with stiff penalties, but in practice, officials tend to look the other way.
Health Minister Edith Schippers and Justice Minister Ard van der Steur wrote in the new letter that the guidelines should move beyond decriminalization to fully legalise the act. They did hedge in saying the law would apply only to senior citizens, “because the wish for a self-chosen end of life primarily occurs in the elderly.”
The ministers did not specify a cut-off age.
And though euthanasia would be made legal under the ministers’ wishes, it won’t be as simple as walking into a doctor’s office or dispensary to request a few lethal pills — the way marijuana legalization has been treated in states like Colorado and Washington.
People who feel they have led a “completed life” will still need to consult a number of specialists, including a “death assistance provider” who has a medical background and has received additional training.
Their request will also go through multiple rounds of review and safety checks to make sure the procedure is ultimately carried out properly.
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