From: Tony Berkman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Nov 28 2000 - 12:00:51 PST
Dutch legalise euthanasia
November 28, 2000
Web posted at: 10:02 AM EST (1502 GMT)
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Euthanasia,
which has been tolerated in the
Netherlands for decades and carried out
thousands of times each year, was
legalised by the Dutch parliament on
Tuesday in an historic move.
By passing legislation allowing mercy
killings, the Netherlands becomes the first country in
the world to allow the
The bill passed by a vote of 104-40. It still needs the
approval of the Senate,
which is considered a formality, and is expected to come
into force next year.
Advocates say it puts the Dutch in the vanguard of
patients' rights, and
opponents say it will replace caring with killing.
"What we are going to vote for is to take
euthanasia out of the criminal arena,"
Justice Ministry spokesman Wijnand
Doctors operate under strict guidelines
requiring them to seek a second opinion
before granting a euthanasia request.
The decision is reviewed by a
commission that includes a medical
expert and a lawyer.
Unlike current practice, however, the
prosecutor's office will no longer review
euthanasia cases unless misconduct is
"If the regulations are met, there won't be a threat of
criminal charges," Wijnand
Requests in writing
In 1993, the Dutch adopted euthanasia guidelines, by
which it was understood
doctors would not be prosecuted even though assisted
remained a crime punishable by a maximum 12-year prison
The guidelines state that a patient must be
undergoing irremediable and unbearable suffering,
be aware of all other medical options and have
sought a second professional opinion.
The request must be made voluntarily, persistently and
independently while the
patient is of sound mind. Doctors are not supposed to
suggest it as an option.
Under the new law, a patient will be able to make a
written request for
euthanasia, giving doctors the right to use their own
discretion when patients
become too physically or mentally ill to decide for
Rita Marker, executive director of the International
Anti-Euthanasia Task Force,
said the law would send a dangerous signal "telling
people that if it's legal, it's
"It will be like giving the household seal of approval.
What is currently a crime
will be transformed into medical treatment," Marker said.
Doctors honour about a third of assisted suicide
requests in the Netherlands each
year, according to government estimates.
In 1999, 2,216 cases were recorded, but there also were
believed to be a larger
number of unregistered cases.
Similar tolerance to euthanasia is shown in Switzerland,
Colombia and Belgium.
A law legalising voluntary euthanasia went into effect
in Australia's Northern
Territory in 1996 but was overturned soon after,
following pressure from the
Euthanasia is illegal in the U.S. but in Oregon, voters
suicide for the terminally ill in 1994. Since the law
took effect in 1997, 43 people
have died in assisted suicides.
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