Dutch plan to let elderly die by injection
Published 11/03/2010 | 05:00
HEALTHY, elderly people who are simply "tired of living" could be allowed to end their lives with a lethal injection under new euthanasia laws being debated by the Dutch parliament.
MPs will discuss the proposals after campaigners collected more than 100,000 signatures in support.
The influential Dutch "Right to Die" campaign, which has been active since 1973, has proposed training non-medical staff to administer a lethal injection to healthy people over the age of 70 who "consider their lives complete".
Under the new "vrijwillig levenseinde", or "of free will" plans, the suicide assistants would be certified and be required to make sure patients were not temporarily depressed and had a "heartfelt and enduring desire" to die.
Marie-Jose Grotenhuis, the campaign's spokeswoman, said: "We've been overwhelmed by the amount of reactions, especially because people took it so seriously and reactions were mostly positive."
Euthanasia was legalised in Holland in 2002 and the new proposals have been backed by a majority in opinion polls.
The Royal Dutch Medical Association is divided over calls to extend euthanasia and has set up a committee to examine the proposals.
Sander Hofman, the association's spokesman, said: "For instance, a doctor probably has a role in easing the suffering of a person who is refusing to eat or drink."
Several European countries, including neighbouring Belgium, allow terminally ill people to end their lives.
The Dutch legalisation of euthanasia for the terminally ill was preceded by decades of negotiations that added stringent medical conditions to the law.
Up to 2,500 euthanasia cases were reported in Holland in 2009.
Even if the Dutch parliament approves the law, any legislation would take more than a decade to implement. (© Daily Telegraph, London)