Submission of euthanasia at "completed life" law causing strife among coalition parties

D66 parliamentarian Pia Dijkstra submitted her legislative proposal to allow elderly people who feel they've come to the end of an complete life to ask for euthanasia, under strict conditions, to parliament on Friday. The submission of the controversial bill is causing some strife in the coalition of VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie, with especially the two Christian parties being vehemently against it.

Dijkstra planned to submit the bill much sooner than today, but the coronavirus crisis and a coalition agreement that a committee would first investigate whether the law was needed, delayed the process. The Van Wijngaarde committee submitted its report in January, after which some adjustments were made to the law. And then the coronavirus crisis hit. 

Dijkstra found it "inappropriate" to submit her bill during the crisis, she said to newspaper AD. "The Netherlands was faced with a very serious crisis, which demanded the full attention of politicians, and therefore also our party." 

The legislative proposal allows people over the age of 75 who feel that they have come to the end of their life and have a persistent wish to die to ask for euthanasia. "There is a group of elderly people who have finished their lives. They say: I go to sleep every night with the hope that I won't wake up again. I want to make euthanasia possible for that group under strict conditions," Dijkstra said to AD. "The problem is getting bigger now that the difference between your biological and you biographical life is increasing thanks to advancing medical conditions."

Christian parties CDA and ChristenUnie are vehemently against this bill. ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers is outraged that Dijkstra submitted it. "I find it extremely painful that at a time when older people feel extra vulnerable, D66 is submitting a proposal that we know will lead to increased anxiety in many older people," Segers said to the Telegraaf. "If corona has made anything clear to us, it is that real attention and good care make the difference in a human life."

CDA parliamentarian Harry van der Molen said to the Telegraaf: "As far as the CDA is concerned, there will be no completed life law, but we will tackle the causes of loneliness. Especially when people feel alone, abandoned or lost, they need attention or care."

Dijkstra told AD that she understands the Christian parties resistance to the law, but added that help with dying is not a problem for all Christians. She herself grew up in a Protestant, Mennonit home and studied theology for several years, she said. "With Mennonites, personal freedom to believe what you want is very important. I was baptized when I was 18 and I wrote my confession myself," she said. She drifted away from the church somewhat. "But I understand the thinking of a Gert-Jan Segers well. At the same time I think: just because you are against, you don't have to hinder others, do you?"

According to the D66 parliamentarian, critics' fears that this law will open the door to many elderly people taking their own lives are "not based on anything". "It is a small group, someone must be at least 75 years old. In addition, as a result of the Van Wijngaarden committee, I put extra emphasis in my law on the professional end-of-life counselor, who enters into discussions with people about their wish to die. He does not assess whether it is possible, but looks where that wish comes from and whether there are alternatives. I also pay more attention to the family and the general practitioner or treating doctor."