Europe Should Legalize Euthanasia, Swiss MP Suggests
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 28, 2004
STRASBOURG, FRANCE--Swiss Member of Parliament Dick Marty on Tuesday called on governments in Europe to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, in part because it is already happening, illegally in most countries.
The Netherlands and Belgium have made euthanasia, so-called "mercy killing", legal for patients that have terminal illnesses. Mr. Marty claimed that other European countries simply choose not to enforce laws banning "active euthanasia", in which a doctor administers lethal drugs to a patient, "passive euthanasia", in which medical treatment is withdrawn, and "assisted suicide", where doctors supply patients with the means to kill themselves.
"Today, there is a notable and worrying discrepancy between the reality, which has been documented in only a few reports, and the legal system," he told the Council of Europe.
The SwissInfo news service cited a study conducted last year in six European countries, that found between 20 and 50 percent of patients with terminal illness used a form of euthanasia to end their lives, even though the practice is illegal.
"Only a very few people are actually prosecuted [for this] in Europe," Marty told SwissInfo. "This shows that there is either a lack of transparency or a lot of hypocrisy about this topic."
Marty said that the Netherlands and Belgium actually introduced mechanisms that make euthanasia more difficult "since it became more transparent and subject to tighter control." He suggested that the issue be debated openly, and that governments look at adopting laws to make the practice legal when the patient makes a responsible, consistent and conscious request to do so.
"In these cases, one realizes the need to at least talk about this problem and that it is hypocrisy to continue in silence," he said Tuesday.
Disability rights groups have long opposed laws allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Advocates note that, regardless of the safeguards, many who have "chosen" such practices are often people with disabilities, or who are afraid of acquiring disabilities -- not people in the final stages of a terminal illness. Many have considered themselves, or have been considered by others, to be a "burden" to others, especially financially. In other cases, the rights of the individual have been overridden by hospitals, family members, or courts.
Mr. Marty's Report on Euthanasia, September 2003 (Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly)
International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide