Does the prohibition of assisted suicide stand in the way of a humane end of life?

Cooperative Last Will (CLW) focuses on a broader legal framework for independent life termination. Via a civil suit, they sued the State on Friday 9 April, hoping the judge will decide in favour of them regarding the prohibition of assisted suicide. According to CLW, the enforcement of this prohibition clashes with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and conflicts with the general personal rights referred to by the Dutch Supreme Court. Martin Buijsen, Professor of Health Law at Erasmus School of Law, explains in an article by Dutch daily newspaper Trouw why he disagrees with that statement.

The right to a humane ending
CLW pleads for the availability of a drug to end life with. Currently, the only way to legally practise euthanasia is through a medical procedure. CLW member Hans Peltenburg: “With cases of unbearable suffering, a doctor is allowed to step in. However, that makes ending life a medical decision and that does not facilitate ending a completely fulfilled life.” Peltenburg considers the right to a humane ending as important as the right to a humane life.

Breach of a treaty?
CLW believes that the enforcement of the current prohibition on assisted suicide conflicts with the protection of the private sphere, which is included in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The prohibition is not just a symbolical law; in 2018, a man got a suspended sentence of six months for assisting his mother in ending her life. Besides the alleged breach of the ECHR, the CLW claims that the prohibition is not in accordance with the general personal rights the Dutch Supreme Court mentions in multiple cases concerning fundamental human rights.

No chance for success
Professor Buijsen considers this last claim “nonsensical and far-fetched”. The cases in which the Supreme Court mentions these rights are not comparable with this case. Also, Buijsen thinks the call on the ECHR will fail as well; “The right to make your own decision about ending life is indeed protected by the right of respect for the private sphere (…) But the European Court has made clear in multiple occasions, that governments are entitled to limit the freedom of decision-making regarding ending life.”

More information

Read the entire article by Trouw here (Dutch).