by Massimiliano Sfregola and Paolo Rosi
English translation by Tommaso Bagna
“It took more than 30 years of work and several trials before succeeding in having a law about Euthanasia in the Netherlands”, says Robert Schurink, manager of the NVVE, one of the main pro-euthanasia organisation founded back in the 70s, “after the well-known Postma Case our battle began and in 2002, finally, a law legalising mercy killing became effective”.
We are not talking about assisted suicide, which, in Countries such as Oregon, is legal since 1997. “There are 44 teams of doctors and nurses and experts’ commissions in 5 regions, analysing more than 5000 requests every year”, goes on Schurink, “However, there are conditions to be fulfilled: a second medical consultation with at least another independent doctor is compulsory, the patient’s suffering must be unbearable and with no prospect of improvement and the patient’s request must be voluntary and persist over time”.
However, Holland is not Italy. Here, in fact, it has been debated about this issue for decades and, while euthanasia now is generally accepted, the NVVE aims to encourage the ‘free will’ recognition: “Times are changing”, our guest explains, “people live longer and the ‘old’ criteria don’t fit anymore. There are people aging more and more who want to put an end to it because life standards can’t keep their pace. Or others who saw relatives affected by dementia and don’t want to share their same faith.”
Probably this one is the trickiest part. According to what can we be sure that the request of an anticipated death is not only the result of a wrong evaluation, or an easy way to get rid of a troublesome old relative? “This is a common fear throughout a lot of countries, but if we take a look to the Netherlands, the elderly death rate did not raise exponentially. We are speaking about around a hundred of requests by people affected by dementia out of 140000 deaths in total”.
And yet, strange but true, the ‘easy death’ in Holland is still illegal: it is simply guaranteed the non-persecution in court to the physicians who decide (voluntarily) to perform it, even though they can still be accused of murder. Therefore, during the years euthanasia became a practice socially accepted by most of the Dutch community, the 80% the NVVE states, and in Den Haag a real mercy killing facility was built, the Levenseindekliniek, while only last year 14000 people got aid in dying.
Despite all of that, the pro-euthanasia organisation did not stop there: last month their campaign to legalise a ‘Death-pill’ restarted. “We are working to overcome the legislative gaps still existing. We also have a Youth Branch with whom we developed a programme to speak about euthanasia at school. The other day I was just explaining to the Canadian Embassy how the mercy killing is performed in the Netherlands… meaning that we are not dealing with eugenics…” says smiling Schurink.
Yes, because Holland is even different from Switzerland, where assisted suicide is accepted, but the country only allows its own citizens to request it and exclusively within the limits stated by the law, while it is unthinkable to go there as a ‘suicide tourist’. Moreover, according to the NVVE, generally euthanasia abuse never takes place. “Of course this procedure is still seen as possible only in Northern Europe. Treating with the ethnical minorities keeps being difficult, especially with radical Catholics or Muslims, who cannot accept euthanasia as a matter of fact”.