Dutch euthanasia laws pave the way for the right to die movement’s
campaign in other countries. Now the Dutch minister who originally
promoted the law says it was a mistake.
Els Borst, who served as Health Minister for the
Netherlands from 1994 to 2002, proposed the country’s infamous
euthanasia bill. When it passed in 2001, the Netherlands became the
first country in the world to legalize euthanasia. In 2008 alone,
Dutch doctors reported 2,331 cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Borst drew criticism from some Christian political parties shortly
after the passage of her bill for comments she made in an interview.
Echoing the Christ’s final words on the Cross, Borst exclaimed: “It is
Now, however, she thinks the government acted too soon, as she told
Dr. Anne-Mei The in interviews for the latter’s new book on the history
of euthanasia, entitled Verlossers naast God (”Redeemer under God”).
The legalization of euthanasia came “far too early,” Borst said,
admitting that the government did not give enough attention to
palliative care and support for the dying. “In the Netherlands, we
first listened to the political and societal demand in favour of
euthanasia,” she said. “Obviously, this was not in the proper order.”
They also weren’t listening to the doctors.
Dr. The, who has studied euthanasia for fifteen years,
affirmed that the foreign perception of inadequate palliative care in
the Netherlands is not unfounded. Further, she explained that in all
her years, nearly all the doctors she has met struggle with euthanasia
due to moral issues or emotional reactions.
So this realization, though it comes after the loss of many lives,
is a compelling turnaround. Now, Borst is exactly the right person to
lead a campaign in favor of palliative care, maybe with the slogan
“It’s never too late.”