BRUSSELS – On 14 October 2017, the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day will draw attention to the importance of providing good care for the terminally ill. In the lead-up to this day, human right groups warn of a push towards acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide as solutions for those suffering. Several European countries are considering to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide. 'The numbers in Belgium and the Netherlands show that where euthanasia is legalized, it soon develops into a normalized option to end one’s life that goes far beyond the terminally ill.
ADF International, a global human rights organization, advocating for the respect of the right to life and for freedom of conscience, has issued the white paper entitled The Legalization of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. It documents the harmful consequences of existing euthanasia laws and practices, showing that no so-called ‘right to die’ exists in international law. The white paper aims to equip those involved in this debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide across the world, and is a part of the “Affirming Dignity” campaign.
“Wherever euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalized we can observe a profound cultural change. The space in society for the weak, the old, and the sick shrinks. The possibility to end one’s life at the hands of a doctor or a ‘helper’ quickly turns into a duty to not be a burden on society. Once we open the doors to intentional killing, there is no logical stopping point. There is nothing progressive about a society that refuses to care for its most vulnerable members,” said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy for ADF International and co-author of the white paper.
A slippery slope – facts and figures from the white paper
Despite international law protecting the right to life at all stages and the World Medical Association consistently categorizing euthanasia as “unethical”, euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2002 and Luxembourg in 2009. Assisted suicide was legalized in Germany in 2015. In 2014, Belgium went another step further, when it became the first country to allow child euthanasia without any age limit. According to the Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission in 2015, 12,726 people have died at the hands of a doctor since the law was adopted. Experts have seen an escalation in numbers and a continuous extend the grounds for euthanasia. Alarmingly, euthanasia for dementia and psychological suffering such as depression.
“There is a fundamental difference between care and killing. Reducing suffering through eliminating the one who suffers is not a humane choice. Modern palliative care can control most physical pain. Patients deserve better options than euthanasia,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.
The international legal expert added: “We will be judged as a society by how we care for our most vulnerable. International law has never established a so-called ‘right to die.’ – On the contrary, it solidly affirms a right to life – particularly for the most vulnerable among us.”
See our Facebook livestream with Sophia Kuby on the growing threat of euthanasia for Europe’s old and terminally ill on 13 October at 12:45 p.m. CET on facebook.com/adfinternational
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