A Dutch court on Wednesday upheld the Netherlands’ ban on assisted suicide, a setback for activists who said the ban violates their right to determine when their lives end.
The District Court in The Hague rejected the activists’ argument that the ban violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
The “right to decide for oneself about one’s end of life is in fact protected” by the convention, the court said in a written statement. “However, this right to self-determination does not go so far as to have the right to assisted suicide.”
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Frits Spangenberg, chairman of the Cooperative Last Will group, which brought the case along with 29 individual plaintiffs, said he was disappointed by the ruling but vowed to keep fighting. He said he would study the decision with lawyers before deciding whether to appeal.
“I’m not surprised, but I was hoping for a broader perspective,” Spangenberg said in a telephone interview.
The government did not react to the ruling.
The Netherlands was the first nation to legalize euthanasia. A 2002 law allowed doctors to end patients’ lives under strict conditions, either by administering a fatal dose of drugs or by giving the patient the drugs to take.
Assisted suicide, the practice of someone other than a doctor giving a person a self-administered lethal substance, remains illegal.
The Hague tribunal said the euthanasia law “adequately weighed the various interests” of “on the one hand the social interest of protecting life and protecting vulnerable people, and on the other hand the interest of those who seek assisted suicide”.
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But he noted that the conditions that must be met for a doctor to perform euthanasia mean that “not everyone who considers their life complete will be able to receive assisted suicide.”
Spangenberg said the find “doesn’t do justice to the daily misery of a growing group of people. It’s cruel, inhumane and cowardly.”
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He said the court was “very focused on the euthanasia options, which are good, but so bureaucratic and only applied in the case of hopeless medical suffering with lots of bells and whistles and conditions.”
Another organisation, the Dutch Association for Voluntary End of Life, also criticized the decision, saying in a statement it confirmed a “situation in which the government deprives its citizens of the right to die with dignity at their discretion”.