(Before beginning, for those of you who aren't immediately sure of what euthanasia is, it means to end a life to ease the pain of that life. Most parents have to explain this to kids when the family dog dissapears or something similar. You don't really want to let the dog just starve or rot away, so you take it to the vet and have it "put down". That is euthanasia. In human terms, it has been called everything from murder to salvation, but in any case...)
Euthanasia Legal, Landmark Dutch Law Enters Force
Mar 31 2002 5:46PM
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Euthanasia became legal in the Netherlands Monday, the first country to permit mercy killing for the hopelessly ill who are desperate to die.
The Dutch parliament sparked worldwide controversy last April when it voted to enshrine in law a practice the Netherlands had tolerated for two decades.
But though opponents drew fearful parallels with Nazi Germany, Dutch doctors did not win a license to kill. They must obey strict rules or be liable for prosecution.
Patients must face a future of unbearable, interminable suffering -- being "weary of life" is not enough -- and they must make a voluntary, well-considered request to die.
Doctor and patient must be convinced there is no other solution, another physician must be consulted and life must be ended in a medically appropriate way.
Some doctors say the fact that euthanasia is allowed is often a sufficient comfort in itself. "For many terminally ill people, the fact that they can choose to die is an immense consolation," says general practitioner Coot Kuipers of the southern village Uden.
The landmark law has reverberated well beyond Dutch borders to countries as far away as Australia.
Belgium has already moved in the same direction. Senators there voted in October in favor of a draft law setting conditions under which doctors may help the terminally ill die.
French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner, a trained doctor, said last year he would use the Dutch decision to press for the legalization of euthanasia in France, and has confessed to performing mercy killings himself in Vietnam and Lebanon.
Debate is also raging in Australia -- whose Northern Territory became the first place in the world to legalize euthanasia in 1996 but saw the law overturned after nine months -- where a bowel cancer sufferer is begging for help to die.
Australian grandmother Nancy Crick, 70, has chronicled her physical disintegration on the Internet and recently appealed for someone to give her a drug that would kill her painlessly.
And in Britain, where assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in jail, a paralyzed woman last month won the right to die in a ground-breaking case.
Fellow Briton Diane Pretty, a motor neurone disease sufferer seeking the legal right for her husband to help her die, is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights after British courts refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.
Many still baulk at euthanasia -- not least the Netherlands' neighbor Germany, where Nazis exterminated thousands of handicapped children and mentally ill adults before and during World War Two.
In response to this article, I can say only that it is about time. Death is a certain, unavoidable, fact of life. It therefor cannot be a morally bad thing. It is unpleasent, yes, and in emotional terms, a very bad thing, but ultimately, it is as much as life an ultimate expression of morality when dealing with the unpleasent. (It is, after all, easy to be a good and moral person when getting paid for it. Death forces us to deal with morality whether we like it or not.)
I also find it highly immoral to leave people dangling from a thread of pain, especially if there is certainly no recovery and certainly no way for them to contribute to life. Even the greatest artists would not be able to do their work if in agony. Euthanasia is a responsible, highly commendable power within human beings. It is that which allows us to maturely look death in the eye and say that the time has come, not avoid it and turn away at the unpleasentness of the thought. I sincerely hope that such a law is, however, as discussed in the article, very closely monitored.