Dutch expert changes his mind about euthanasia


A Dutch euthanasia expert says he’s seen assisted dying in his country go from being seen as a last resort to a “project” to be managed.

“I used to be a supporter of [euthanasia] legislation. But now, with twelve years of experience, I take a different view,” says Dr Theo A. Boer.

From 2005 to 2014 Boer was an ethicist on a regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands, examining 4,000 euthanasia cases.

He is presently visiting New Zealand.

In 2007 Boer said the Dutch euthanasia law was working well. He wrote, ‘there doesn’t need to be a slippery slope when it comes to euthanasia. A good euthanasia law, in combination with the euthanasia review procedure, provides the warrants for a stable and relatively low number of euthanasia.”

However, in 2014, he wrote an article for the Daily Mail stating, “But we were wrong – terribly wrong, in fact. In hindsight, the stabilization in the numbers was just a temporary pause.”

Boris Jancic, in his column in the New Zealand Herald, quotes Boer as saying: “The availability of euthanasia has very much changed the way we think about dying. Dying is more and more kind of a project. It is something that people are managing.

The initial reasons for euthanasia in the Netherlands was pain … People were beyond hope because there was no pain relief. But what I have seen is that the primary reason is not pain.”

According to Boer’s research, terminal cancer was the reason behind 95 per cent of cases of euthanasia in 2002, but only 68 per cent by 2016.

He says since the Netherlands legalised assisted dying in 2002 there’s been a consistent increase in uptake and a shift from seeing euthanasia as a last resort to a “good death”.


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