Euthanasia debate in Netherlands
Sir, – I would commend Peter Cluskey for his overview of euthanasia as practiced in the Netherlands (“Euthanasia debate in Netherlands takes an unwelcome twist”, World, September 10th).
While slippery-slope arguments are usually a dubious basis upon which to resist change, they are almost inevitably cited as a concern in this area of ethics. And, unfortunately, there are few clear boundaries which can be relied upon to limit extension of this intervention.
His assertion that euthanasia, while used in “unbearable suffering”, cannot be applied to those who are “tired of life” is difficult to stand over. There are reports of its use in situations of depression, and dementia, for example. In the former situation, the sense of having had enough of life may itself cause extreme suffering. In advanced dementia, it is generally difficult for the affected patient to communicate at all, but from an observer’s point of view, life, as a meaningful process, may seem to be over.
Extreme suffering is sadly not limited to physical illness. Ultimately suffering is an experience, and as such, it is arguably entirely psychological. – Yours, etc,