On Monday, October, 13, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that the Dutch government will amend its euthanasia law to permit child euthanasia — an announcement that came only three days after the news that the issue of child euthanasia had divided the Netherlands coalition government.

The NL Times reported that de Jonge said the new law was planned to be legislated after the next election, on March 17 next year.

Already, the Netherlands law permits euthanasia for children as young as 12 (when parents or guardians consent). People over the age of 16 can consent to euthanasia as adults and the Groningen Protocol permits euthanasia for disabled newborns. The new legislation would expand the law to include children from one to 12 years of age.

Earlier this year, a bill to extend the Netherlands euthanasia law to people who are healthy, but “tired of living” was submitted by a member of the D66 party, Pia Dykstra. An article in the NL Times reported that:

The legislative proposal allows people over the age of 75 who feel that they have come to the end of their life and have a persistent wish to die to ask for euthanasia.

This proposal is obviously a starting point. People can be “tired of living” for many reasons and it can be argued that it would be discriminatory and unfair to limit such a law to people over the age of 75.

It appears that the Netherlands has decided to ignore the mantra that euthanasia is limited to those who are capable of consenting and suffering. Children cannot effectively consent and people who are “tired of living” would not be required to be “suffering”.

Meanwhile, in Canada a new bill known as Bill C-7, seeking to expand Canada’s euthanasia (MAiD) law, was introduced in February this year in response to a Quebec Court decision striking down the provision in Canada’s law that a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable”. Striking down this provision in the law is problematic, even though the reference to natural death needing to be “reasonably foreseeable” was not defined in the law.

Bill C-7 does not limit itself to the provision of the Quebec Court decision. It also expands Canada’s euthanasia law primarily by eliminating the 10-day waiting period when a person’s death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable. Because Bill C-7 does not define “reasonably foreseeable”, a person could make a request for death by euthanasia when having a “bad day” and die the same day even though studies prove that a person’s “will to live” will fluctuate.

Creating a two-track law

A person whose death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable would have no waiting period, while a person whose death is deemed to not be reasonably foreseeable would have a 90-day waiting period before being killed. Once again, “reasonably foreseeable” is not defined in the law, permitting a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting, if that person was previously approved for MAiD.

Therefore a person who is approved to die by MAiD, if they become incompetent, will lose his or her right to have a change mind. This is a similar situation to the Netherlands “coffee euthanasia” death where a doctor put a sedative in the coffee of an incompetent woman who resisted during the euthanasia, but when the woman continued to resist, the doctor had the family hold her down.

To add insult to injury, Bill C-7 falsely claims to prevent people with mental illness (alone) from dying by euthanasia. Canada’s euthanasia law permits death by lethal injection when a person is physically or psychologically suffering in a manner that is intolerable to the person and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers “acceptable”. However, mental illness is already considered a form of psychological suffering and the bill does not define psychological suffering.

If the Canadian Government actually wants to exclude euthanasia for mental illness (alone) it needs to define psychological suffering in a manner that excludes euthanasia for mental illness.

It is true that the Netherlands has not changed the language of its euthanasia law since legalization, but it has expanded euthanasia by continually changing the interpretation of the law.

Canada has become the world-wide example of how incremental extensions quickly expand the scope of euthanasia laws. Since 2016 the language of the law has been continually re-interpreted and, less than four years after legalization, the Government is eliminating many of the “safeguards” in the law.

Once a society has decided to legalize killing, there will always be another reason to kill, and based on equality and fairness, death, once approved for one group, will eventually be accepted for all other groups.

The reality is that, once killing is legalized, there will never be enough.

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg is Executive Director and International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. He is based in Ontario, Canada.