Very old people who are sick of life should be allowed to kill themselves with a suicide pill, the Dutch health minister said in an interview published Saturday.
“I am not against it, as long as it can be carefully enough regulated so that it only concerns very old people who have had enough of living,” Els Borst told daily NRC Handelsblad.
A suicide pill should only be permitted, however, if the person administered it themselves and there was a test to ensure they really were tired of life and desperate to die, she said.
Borst’s comments came just days after the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia. The law lays down strict rules that the patient must be facing interminable, unbearable suffering, that a doctor must consult another physician, and that a committee must review the case.
Although it recognized a practice tolerated in the Netherlands for over two decades, the law sparked outrage in some other countries. Some compared it to the policies of Nazi Germany which systematically killed handicapped adults and children.
Borst insisted that allowing suicide pills for the aged and world-weary was not euthanasia.
“Being tired of life has nothing to do with the euthanasia law, with medicine and doctors. You may be releasing someone from their suffering, but it is a suffering that has no link with illness or handicap,” she said in the interview.
Borst said the subject was not a matter for the health minister, “but it could well be that a justice minister says: ‘I want to allow people to end it all’.”
She said she would be in favor of that, so long as the person could administer the pill themselves and there was a test to check they fulfilled the right criteria.
She cited the example of two 95-year-old people she had known. “They were bored stiff but, alas, not bored to death — because that was indeed what they wanted most of all.”
One of them had no family to speak of, Borst said. “If she had said ‘I’ve got a pill here and I’m going to take it’, I would certainly have been at peace with that.”
The main opposition Christian Democrats (CDA) party was swift to express dismay at Borst’s remarks.