vrijdag 15 oktober 2021

To our own end

Translation of my Dutch blog Eigen einde

Today, De Groene Amsterdammer weekly magazine fell on the doormat face down with the back side up. There I saw a full-page advertisement of a lobby and self aid group that wants to promote legal options for assisted suicide for the elderly. A painful subject and I was upset by this appeal. I was tempted to return the magazine in its plastic casing back to sender, but I realize that the editors are not responsible for the advertisements. I wonder if I would have been less shocked if the ad hadn't stared at me from the doormat.

Let me start by saying that I believe that we should always - always, always - treat people who want to take their own lives - with or without help - with respect and compassion, and the same when someone has taken that irreversible step, no matter how painful. It doesn’t mean that at the same time you couldn't be angry at someone who left you by a chosen death, but respect for people always comes first and in the end you'll have to let someone go.

But that’s not the same as promoting the options for voluntarily stepping out of life. The theme as such, but also the fallacies from the advertisement confused me. "Your own end is too important to leave it to others," says a relatively young actress smiling in the ad. Whereas death comes naturally to each of us, without human intervention, autonomously, as a natural process. But we can be happy when others - professionals and loved ones - stand around us at that moment. Also, suicide is not a crime. It is only a crime to leave it to others.

Then I read - the magazine still not removed from the plastic casing: "Most people like to decide for themselves when life has been enough. Strangely enough, our government then forbids you a dignified end. That is inhumane and contrary to European fundamental rights".

A curious euphemism. That someone's life has been beautiful and enough - we hope that for everyone - means here the wish to voluntarily step out of life. Cryptically, the suggestion is made here that most people - or most older people - end up being suicidal. That is simply not true. No matter how deeply and sincerely people - of all ages - can sometimes long for the end.

Saying that the government would forbid a humane end to our life is a travesty. Dying does not make a human life unworthy. The prohibition to kill others does not make the end inhumane.

The claim that Dutch legislation is in conflict with European fundamental rights is out of the blue. Our country was the first to introduce euthanasia legislation, while other European countries thought it was going too far at the time, although we have now been overtaken by others.

Amnesty International writes: "When and to what extent euthanasia is justified cannot simply be deduced from human rights treaties. (...) if euthanasia involves someone else, such as a doctor, the question is whether such person can take over the responsibility for someone else’s life".

Dutch euthanasia legislation is based on compassion in case of unbearable and irreversable suffering. If life can no longer be carried, it can no longer be carried. Then we reach our limit.

To indicate my vision on citizenship and human-being, I sometimes draw a fictitious line between 'D66' and the 'SGP'. I don’t mean these political parties literally, hence the quotation marks, but the extreme ends of two views. In my view on citizenship I am closer to the liberal 'D66', but in terms of human-being closer (not equal to) the orthodox Christian 'SGP'. Both parties sometimes get it mixed up. Citizenship is about our social and political relationships. The free citizen exists because we want to. But the autonomous citizen of 'D66', who freely chooses rationally, is just as abstract, fictional and invisible as the calvinist god of the 'SGP'. As human beings we have only a limited influence on our lives, that we are forced to live by trial and error, groping, stumbling, discovering and accepting. If we believe that every person should always be able to decide autonomously about life and death in complete freedom, we must stop having children. To be conceived and born is the greatest violation of our autonomy. That dependence is not by definition inhumane. On the contrary, it defines our humanity.

Sources in Dutch: 
Amnesty International
Duitsland * België

Suicide prevention: 
Dutch: https://www.113.nl/

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