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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 01:00 GMT 02:00 UK
UN concern at Dutch euthanasia law
Nurse tends elderly patient
There are concerns that staff will become desensitised
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has criticised the Netherlands for its controversial new law on euthanasia.

The committee's rapporteur, Eckart Klein, said the growing number of assisted suicides could lead to them becoming routine.


The main worry is not only the actual practice, but also the fact that this new law could create precedents that dilute the importance and trivialise this act

Committee rapporteur Eckart Klein
"The main worry is not only the actual practice, but also the fact that this new law could create precedents that dilute the importance and trivialise this act," he said.

"The practitioner could become practically insensitive and the act trivialised."

The committee is worried about figures, supplied by the government, which show that more than 2,000 cases of euthanasia were carried out last year.

It is also concerned about reports that medical personnel have ended the lives of new-born handicapped babies.

The issue of applying the law to young people without parental consent has also been raised.

Review request

The draft report said that the Dutch Government should review the law in the light of the committee's observations.

Netherlands parliament passing law
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia
The Dutch Senate passed the law allowing assisted-suicide in April, making the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalise it.

The law comes into effect next January although the practice has been tolerated in the country for many years.

It has the following 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.

Bernard Kouchner
Kouchner: Admitted practising euthanasia
French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner admitted this week that he had practised euthanasia while working as a doctor during the wars in Lebanon and Vietnam.

Mr Kouchner - a founding member of the Paris-based medical aid agency, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) - said passive euthanasia, where doctors suspend treatment of dying patients, occurs frequently in France.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Europe
Dutch 'mercy killing law' passed
10 Apr 01 | Europe
Analysis: New law changes little
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