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Dr Ruud Hagenouw of Royal Dutch Medical Association
"We are very glad the legislation has taken place"
 real 28k

Nellike Yurisser, whose mother chose euthanisa
"It was not a difficult decision"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
'Nazi' jibe over Dutch death vote
A nurse tends to an elderly patient
The Dutch law seeks to play God, say opponents
The Netherlands has been hailed and vilified in reaction from around Europe, after becoming the first country to legalise euthanasia.

The Dutch senate gave formal approval to the new law on Tuesday evening by 46 votes to 28.

Such a selection was made by Nazi Germans in concentration camps

Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek
Supporters of the right to die have praised the Dutch for their "sensible and humanitarian" stance.

But others said the plan had echoes of Nazi Germany, where disabled people were systematically killed.

"Such a selection was made by Nazi Germans in concentration camps," said leading Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek.

'Dangerously comfortable'

"It is an attempt by man to correct God. Human life is not in our hands, because we are not the giver of life."

An Austrian Catholic charity, Caritas, said the decision was a dangerously comfortable path", where getting rid of sufferers was more important than easing their pain.

And the Dutch Christian Patient Organisation said some people were beginning to feel pressured into asking for euthanasia.

But for euthanasia supporters, the Dutch move was a breakthrough.

In Belgium, which is preparing to debate easing the law on euthanasia, a right-to-die spokesman said the Dutch experience "illuminates our debate even if differences exist."

I think the new Dutch law is very sensible and humanitarian

New Zealand MP Chris Carter
Figures from Belgium suggest that around 72% of the population supports euthanasia, with around 84% in France expressing similar backing. Dutch polls suggested around 90% support.

Jacob Kohnstamm, president of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said he had received thousands of supportive letters and e-mails from countries including the UK, France and Belgium.

"Someone has to be first. There's nothing to be proud of and nothing to be ashamed of... Within 25 years, most countries will have a euthanasia law," he said.

Global attention has also been focused on the Dutch decision. In New Zealand, a member of parliament said he might introduce a private member's bill based on the Dutch law.

"I think the new Dutch law is very sensible and humanitarian," said MP Chris Carter.

"It provides safeguards but also recognises that individuals have the freedom to choose when they have suffered enough. The Dutch law empowers terminally ill people with an option. I would like to have that choice."

Dutch assurances

Dutch Health Minister Els Borst has insisted that it will not be possible for doctors to abuse the new law, because of careful supervisory provisions.

Supporters of the law also say it will only give a legal framework to what is already happening in reality.

Under the new law, euthanasia would be allowed under specific conditions:

  • the patient must have an incurable illness
  • he or she must be experiencing "unbearable suffering"
  • the patient must be of sound mind and have given consent
  • the termination of life must then be carried out in a medically appropriate manner.

The legislation goes into force when the Dutch monarch, Queen Beatrix, signs the law and its details are published in the official media, a process expected to take about two weeks.

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See also:

10 Apr 01 | Europe
Analysis: New law changes little
28 Nov 00 | Europe
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Opposition to Dutch euthanasia
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Lessons from Down Under
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A euthanasia glossary
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Euthanasia and the law
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