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Feb 13, 2024, 1:26pm EST
Europe
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Semafor Signals

‘Duo euthanasia’ in spotlight after former Dutch PM and his wife die ‘hand in hand’

Insights from The Guardian, Catholic News Agency, El País, and The Boston Globe

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ormer Dutch prime ministers Dries van Agt, Piet de Jong, and Wim Kok. ROBERT VOS/ANP/AFP
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The News

Former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt died by euthanasia, “hand in hand” with his wife Eugenie, both aged 93. Their deaths earlier this month reflect a rare but growing trend in the Netherlands for “duo euthanasia,” where a small number of couples have been granted their wish to die in unison.

Couples form only a tiny number of the total deaths allowed by euthanasia in the Netherlands, where the practice has been legal since 2002 for patients with six conditions including “unbearable suffering, no prospect of relief, and a long-held, independent wish for death.” A second opinion is required to confirm that the patient is of sound mind and that the request for euthanasia is made independently and persistently.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Ecuador has joined the ranks of countries to legalize euthanasia in the Americas

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Sources:  
Reuters, El País

Last week, Ecuador decriminalized euthanasia, becoming the latest country in Latin America to do so after Colombia and Cuba. The country’s constitutional court voted seven to two in favor of allowing a doctor to help a patient with ALS to die, ruling that it would be “unreasonable to impose an obligation to stay alive on someone who is going through this situation.” The court allowed the option of “ending the intense suffering caused by a serious and irreversible bodily injury or a serious and incurable illness,” ruling that the crime of homicide would no longer apply to doctors who similarly assist patients.

Paola Roldán, the patient who filed the case, expressed her surprise about making history in a conservative and religious country, telling El País that she had been told by many to go to Colombia before the court’s ruling. “I thought how glad I am that now I don’t have to flee my country. Today, Ecuador welcomes me a bit more,” she said.

Fears of ‘euthanasia tourism’ rise in US as debates about decriminalization persist

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Sources:  
The Boston Globe, Associated Press, The New York Times, National Catholic Register

Last year, Vermont became the first U.S. state to allow for medically assisted suicide for terminally ill people from out of the state. The plaintiff in the case, Lynda Bluestein, was a Connecticut woman with terminal cancer who argued that the residency requirement for the procedure violated the Constitution’s commerce, equal protection, and privileges and immunities clauses. “This is going to cause other states, the other jurisdictions that have medical aid in dying, to look at their residency requirement, too,” said Bluestein, whose experience was documented by The Boston Globe. Organizations such as the National Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, have said that they are “deeply disappointed” about Vermont’s potential status as a tourist destination for assisted suicide, saying that this poses dangers to “vulnerable groups.” Other opponents feared that if other states, that had already legalized medically-assisted suicide, followed suit by removing their residency requirements, “you’ve pretty much got the whole United States,” a Vermont Right to Life official told the National Catholic Register.

Many Catholics are opposed to euthanasia

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Sources:  
Catholic News Agency, The Guardian, Newsweek

Catholics have repeatedly voiced opposition to euthanasia on the grounds that it is suicide and “playing with life,” while others have said that the practice is “rife with abuse and discrimination.” Although medically-assisted death is legal in the state of Victoria, Australia, one patient with motor neurone disease who lived in a Catholic palliative care facility found her requests repeatedly delayed. Due to the delay, her pain levels increased, rendering oral euthanasia medication “no longer possible.” “Depending on where someone lives, the catchment area they fall into may mean that the only local palliative care service is run by a Catholic organization, which all have different policies about how they treat euthanasia,” according to The Guardian in Australia.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline in the U.S. for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988. Visit 988lifeline.org for crisis chat services or for more information.

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