Earlier this year, critics decried a case in which a Dutch woman in her 20s was euthanized after her mental health condition was declared “insufferable” by a team of doctors and psychiatrists in the Netherlands.
She had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other mental illnesses as a result of being a victim of sexual abuse. Multiple reports classified her condition as “incurable,” thus legally justifying the woman's death by euthanasia under Dutch law. The woman was just one of many who have been legally euthanized due to mental illness since the law began.
The country’s law also provides provisions for children ages 12-15 to request euthanasia or assisted suicide with parental permission, a safeguard that does not apply to minors age 16-18. There is also a provision for newborn infants to be euthanized if a certain set of criteria are met.
The neighboring country of Belgium became the first country to legalize the euthanasia of minors without an age limit, with parental consent and the consultation of other medical professionals.
The Netherlands was the first country to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002. Euthanasia differs from physician-assisted suicide in that a third party – a doctor, a family member – may administer lethal drugs to the patient. Under physician-assisted suicide, the patient’s doctor provides the means of death, such as lethal prescriptions, but legally only the patient can administer the drugs to themselves.
In 2002, the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act decriminalized euthanasia and assisted suicide for physicians who were acting under a certain set of criteria, which included the nature of the patient's request (that it be persistent and voluntary), that the patient's suffering is unbearable with no prospect of recovery, and the conditions of the request were confirmed by at least two doctors.