Last updated: August 18, 2019
Topic: ArtRadio
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One of the issues brought up in
the debate over physician-assisted suicide is the slippery slope argument: If
physician-assisted suicide is made legal, then other things will follow, with
the end being the legalising of euthanasia for anyone for any reason or no
reason. The experience of other countries shows that this is not theoretical.
The Netherlands is an example of the slippery slope on which legalising physician-assisted suicide puts us. In the 1980s the Dutch government stopped prosecuting
physicians who committed voluntary euthanasia on their patients (Jackson
2013, 931–932; Patel
and Rushefsky 2015, 32–33). By the 1990s over 50 percent of
acts of euthanasia were no longer voluntary. This is according to the 1991
Remmelink Report, a study on euthanasia requested by the Dutch government and
conducted by the Dutch Committee to Study the Medical Practice Concerning
Euthanasia ( 2014; Patients’ Rights Council 2013a; Van Der Mass et
al. 1991). In 2001 euthanasia was made legal. And in 2004 it was decided that
children also could be euthanized. According to Wesley Smith, in a Weekly Standard article
in 2004, “In the Netherlands, Groningen University Hospital has decided its
doctors will euthanize children under the age of 12, if doctors believe their
suffering is intolerable or if they have an incurable illness.” The hospital
then developed the Groningen Protocol to decide who should die. Smith comments,

“It took the Dutch almost 30 years
for their medical practices to fall to the point that Dutch doctors are able to
engage in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged
after Nuremberg. For those who object to this assertion by claiming that German
doctors killed disabled babies during World War II without consent of parents,
so too do many Dutch doctors: Approximately 21% of the infant euthanasia deaths
occurred without request or consent of parents. (Smith

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in the Netherlands went from illegal but not prosecuted, to legal, to including
And it is not stopping there (Schadenberg
2013). Now, in 2011, Radio Netherlands reported that “the
Dutch Physicians Association (KNMG) says unbearable and lasting suffering should
not be the only criteria physicians consider when a patient requests
euthanasia.” The association published a new set of guidelines, “which says a
combination of social factors and diseases and ailments that are not terminal
may also qualify as unbearable and lasting suffering under the Euthanasia Act.”
These social factors include “decline in other areas of life such as financial
resources, social network, and social skills” (RNW
2011). So, a person with non-life-threatening health problems
but who is poor or lonely can request to be euthanized.

another example of the slippery slope to which physician-assisted suicide
leads, in 2002 Belgium “legalised euthanasia for competent adults and
emancipated minors.” In February of 2014, Belgium took the next step:

Belgium legalised euthanasia by
lethal injection for children…. Young children will be allowed to end their
lives with the help of a doctor in the world’s most radical extension of a
euthanasia law. Under the law there is no age limit to minors who can seek a
lethal injection. Parents must agree with the decision, however, there are
serious questions about how much pressure will be placed on parents and/or
their children. (Patients
Rights Council 2013b)

say that the US state laws concerning physician-assisted suicide are very
restrictive and so there is no chance of erosion such as has happened in the
Netherlands or Belgium (Intelligence
Squared 2014b, 34). Yet, if there is no moral or philosophical
basis for PAS laws in the common good, then there is no telling how far changes
to PAS laws will go in the future, and no stopping the changes.