Dutch medical ethicist says “We were wrong” to legalize euthanasia

Theo Boer changed his mind about euthanasia and has gone public with his admission. “We were wrong—terribly wrong,” he wrote in an article for Daily Mail that was recently posted on Careful!, a Mercatornet blog about end of life issues. Boer, along with most of his colleagues, believed that safeguards in the 2001 Netherlands law permitting euthanasia and physician assisted suicide were adequate to prevent the “slippery slope” of increased usage. As Boer said—they were wrong—terribly wrong! Since 2008 annual deaths from PAS have increased 15% each year escalating from 1882 in 2002 to 4,188 in 2012. Boer estimates there will be more than 6,000 this year or next.

Perhaps more chilling is the establishment in The Netherlands of “End of Life” Clinics whose sole purpose for existence is to aid patients in suicide. Serviced by “traveling euthanizing doctors.” These doctors make no attempt to treat disease or illness. On average, Boer says they see each patient only three times and have only two options: assisted suicide or send the patient away. “They will not rest until a lethal pill is made available to anyone over 70 years who wishes to die. Some slopes truly are slippery,” laments Boer.
Further evidence that Netherlands is sliding down a slippery slope under legalized is the rise in reports of euthanasia and PAS among those whose suffering is not caused by terminal illness but by the diagnosis of psychiatric illness or dementia or merely because they are aged, lonely or bereaved.

Boer also expresses concern that public opinion is shifting toward viewing PAS as a “right” rather than an “exception.” Pressure on medical providers who refuse to administer assisted suicide is increasing too, and not only from the patient, but from relatives. A new law under consideration would force doctors to either provide PAS or refer patients to another doctor who will. It is sobering to realize that the doctor we choose to provide treatment that leads to health and life might also be in the business of providing a path to death. One woman commenting on the Careful! post knows she is alive today because she chose a doctor who did not believe in assisted suicide. Her comment describes how he led her from despair to hope.
“I only thought I would be a burden . . . I would start to suffer. We can be so wrong in that moment of thinking. I am so grateful to be alive today and to Dr. Stevens, who talked me out of physician assisted-suicide . . . I can truly say, "It is Great to be Alive" and face the next challenge.”
As Christians we believe this physical life is only one aspect of our being. By the power of Christ’s resurrection our souls live beyond this physical existence. Jesus showed us how to die—he did not cut short his own suffering or death knowing that his own death and resurrection would provide for our bodies to one day be restored. To know Christ (Philippians 3:9-10) is to know the power of his resurrection and to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.  We are not to circumvent the work that God is doing in us and through us at the end of our lives but instead to find in Christ sufficient hope to transcend suffering, pain, and loss. Our greatest testimony to the life of Christ in us may well be our demonstration of absolute trust in our Savior as we walk through disease and pain, living the full number of days that God has ordained for us.


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