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Dutch discuss assisted suicide regardless of age

9 days from today Dutch Parliamentary elections will take place. The topic of assisted suicide for elderly people who consider their lives completed is highly discussed and has become an election topic.  



In December, D66 (Liberal Democratic, progressive party) presented a member’s bill to allow people aged 75 years or older to be assisted with suicide when they choose to end their lives. Last week, the Dutch political leader of D66 Alexander Pechtold stated that assisted suicide should be possible for anybody, regardless of age.


In the Dutch TV show Nieuwsuur, Pechtold was confronted with a 57-year-old man with a death wish. The man stated that he doesn’t have the time to wait another 18 years, and said: ‘I want it now’. Pechtold referred to the man’s situation as “intense” and said he hoped  that ultimately also people under 75 could have the choice to bring  about a dignified end to their lives. “I hope that our civilization will be that far in the future,” Pechtold said. Although D66 itself is in favor of removing the age limit in the new law, Pechtold said on Thursday evening that they had deliberately chosen 75 as the age limit.


A lower limit is politically not feasible right now. “We now have broad support for this initiative,” he said. “We must not let that support be disrupted and therefore we take step by step.” A majority of parties are in favour of the bill. Christian parties already were opposed to the proposal in the first place and showed their concerns on the D66 leader’s statements this week.


According to the bill, a specially-trained life ending coach should assess such a request and the procedure should be controlled by a  regional committee. The assisted suicide should not be confused with euthanasia, involving unbearable and incurable suffering. The new law should function alongside the current euthanasia law.


The law on euthanasia is in force since 2002, giving doctors the possibility of terminating patients’ lives on their requests by administering lethal drugs. These patients have to meet the criteria of unbearable suffering and  with no prospect of improvement. The Dutch law includes assisted suicide if given by medical doctor.