Sliding Down the Slope

'For some strange reason, the Dutch have appointed themselves leaders in the euthanasia movement. Last year (June 21) the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that it is permissible to kill someone who is in good health, but is depressed.

'The case that brought the ruling involved 50-year-old Hilly Bosscher who was given a fatal dose of sleeping pills by Dr. Boudewijn Chabot. Bosscher came to the doctor wanting help to die as she was mentally suffering from the deaths of her two sons (one by suicide, the other from cancer) and from a failed marriage. This woman clearly needed loving help, wise counsel, support, and spiritual guidance. But she was not dying, not physically disabled -- just horribly depressed. Nevertheless, within 24 hours of bringing her problem to the doctor, she was dead. Does this barrier-breaking precedent predict that psychiatrists will soon be out of business in the Netherlands? Or will they just adapt: One visit cures all; must pay in advance.

'When Dutch compassion hits our shores there will be hundreds of thousands of Americans now suffering from severe mental illness put to new risks. Their anguish is real as is the suffering of millions of other people battling the tragedies and bitter setbacks that life sometimes deals. Is assisted suicide the answer?

'Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania asks: 'Should doctors and nurses really have the right to kill those in the midst of despair due to mental illness, a divorce, the death of a child, a romantic failure or a major career setback?' '

-- The Human Life Review, Fall 1994.