April 1 marks the 21st anniversary of the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands – the first country to make the practice legal.
The Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act was passed in 2001 and took effect April 1, 2002.
Since then, six other countries have legalized euthanasia: Belgium in 2002; Luxembourg in 2009; Colombia in 2014; Canada in 2016, and Spain [photo above is from a 2021 protest against the legalization of euthanasia in Spain], and New Zealand in 2001. France is seriously considering it.
In the United States, it is now legal in the states of Oregon, Hawaii, Washington, Maine, Colorado, New Jersey, California, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.
According to the Dutch pro-life organization NPV-Care for Life, any action intended to terminate life is in principle a criminal offense under Dutch law. The only exemption from criminal liability is where a patient is experiencing “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement” and the attending physician fulfills the statutory due care criteria.
The Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act specified conditions for which euthanasia is not an offense. It requires the physician administering a euthanasia to be satisfied that:
- The patient’s request for euthanasia is voluntary and well-considered;
- The patient received information about the situation and prospects;
- The patient’s suffering is unbearable with no prospect of improvement;
- There is no other reasonable solution to alleviate the patient’s suffering.
Euthanasia can be performed only at the patient’s own request, not at the request of relatives or friends, the law stipulates. Children as young as 12 can request the procedure.
A 2021 report by NPV and the European Christian Political Movement pointed out that since the legalization of euthanasia, the grounds for performing it in the Netherlands have been broadened: Euthanasia is allowed not only for terminally ill persons, but also for patients with psychological problems and persons with severe dementia, and there has been discussion of allowing it for people who simply feel they have lived a “completed life.”
Annual deaths by euthanasia have grown from 1,882 in 2002 to 6,938 in 2020.
Since 2007, the “Regulation of late termination of pregnancy and termination of life in newborns” has allowed for the euthanizing of children aged 0-1, the report pointed out. Also known as the Groningen Protocol, the regulation concerns children who are expected to die within a short period of time after birth and children with a bad prognosis or a “bad life” perspective.