Saturday, March 4, 2017

Assisted "death with dignity" divides Dutch political parties

Dutch political parties' difference in opinions on the issue of assisted suicide became clear on Friday in the aftermath of remarks made by D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold on the age limit for those wishing to end their lives.

In December last year, D66 (Democrats) presented a law proposal to allow people aged 75 years or older to be assisted with suicide irrespective of their medical situation. But on Thursday night, Pechtold was confronted with a 57-year-old man with a death wish on the Dutch TV news show Nieuwsuur and the politician answered that the law should also be applicable for people under 75 in the future.

"I have to wait for 18 years now, but I do not want to," the man said. "I want it now."

Pechtold referred to the man's situation as "intense" and said he hoped that ultimately also people under 75 could have the choice to bring about a dignified end to their lives. "I hope that our civilization will be that far in the future," Pechtold said.

Twelve days before the Dutch elections, a fierce public debate arose following Pechtold's remarks. Christian parties -- the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Christian Union (CU) and Reformed Political Party (SGP) -- traditionally strong opponents of assisted suicide, spoke out against the D66 leader's statements. CU leader Gert-Jan Segers said on Twitter that the remarks were "literally fatal," SGP leader Kees van der Staaij called it "astonishing news," and Sybrand Buma of CDA said "it's our job to show that there is a future for everyone."

GroenLinks (GreenLeft) leader Jesse Klaver called it a "dilemma", while VVD's Member of Parliament Arno Rutte supported Pechtold. "This choice, even if some people find it uncomfortable, should not be linked to an age," he told national broadcaster NOS.

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