‘Assisted dying’ being used as a remedy for all suffering, committee hears

An expert in assisted suicide says he fears the practice is increasingly viewed as a remedy against all kinds of suffering.

Former supporter turned critic of the Netherlands’ right-to-die laws, Theo Boer, a professor of healthcare ethics, told a Dáil committee yesterday that his country’s euthanasia laws turned the whole landscape of dying, illness, suffering, and ageing upside down.

Speaking to the Oireachtas joint committee on ‘assisted dying’, he said the number of people availing of it in the Netherlands has quadrupled in 20 years, from just under 2,000 people in 2002 to almost 9,000 in 2022.

In some neighbourhoods, assisted suicide/euthanasia account for 15pc to 20pc of all deaths, he said.

He also said there has been an expansion of the reasons for it — from those who feared spending their final days in pain and agony to patients today fearing loneliness, alienation and care dependency.

Independent Senator Ronán Mullen asked whether there was any reduction in suicides where euthanasia was legalised.

Professor Boer said that in the Netherlands, in some categories of those allowed to engage in euthanasia, the number of suicides has risen against expectations.

“There is no reason to assume that allowing euthanasia will bring down the number of suicides.”