Dutch may create suicide professionals to help over-70s

“Wanted: nurse or spiritual caretaker in possession of a Completed Life Certificate to assist suicides.” If a group of elderly grandees in the Netherlands calling itself “Out of Free Will” succeeds with its plan for decriminalizing assisted suicide, job advertisements like this will be appearing in the newspapers.

They have already begun collecting signatures to lobby for a change in legislation.

In an interview in the NRC Handelsblad, three of them explain why the Netherlands needs to grant anyone sane over the age of 70 the right to die with a professionally-trained expert’s assistance. Under their plan the expert would determine whether they are of sound mind and not depressed. A doctor would  then confirm this assessment. After the death, the expert would write up a report for the local euthanasia committee. Only Dutch citizens would be eligible.

The specialist suicide assistants will need to complete a “Completed Life” training program and to join a professional association which will maintain standards of professional, transparent and safe conduct.

Dick Swaab, the head of the Amsterdam-based Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, and a leader of the group, explained that “Throughout the animal kingdom, individuals are simply replaced, rather than patched up endlessly.” Human beings are much the same and they should move on when it is time to go.

The age limit of 70 is arbitrary. “Whether it should be 65 or 90 is a good question,” says legal scholar Eugene Sutorius. “We think that once someone has reached old age, he has proved abilities at living. He can then choose to leave this life in a procedural, medicalised manner.”

The three spokesmen told the newspaper that abuse of the law was unlikely to be a problem, especially in view of the country’s positive experience with euthanasia. “It was thought to be the first step on a slippery slope that would lead the medical profession to lose its integrity,” says Mr Sutorius. “But I have seen nothing of the kind happen.” ~ NRC Handelsbad, Feb 8

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | assisted suicide, euthanasia, Netherlands

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