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A Dutch anti-euthanasia campaigner is warning Scotland against legalising assisted suicide, saying the Netherlands should offer a cautionary tale.

The Netherlands legalised euthanasia in 2001.

Henk Reitsema writes in The Times:

My country expected a fall in backdoor euthanasia and the stopping of incremental extension by pinning down the definitions in law. But 20 years later it is clear we were profoundly mistaken.

There has been a massive greying of the lines, with a significant increase in life-shortening treatments that are not being called euthanasia. The term “unbearable suffering” has been expanded from physical suffering to include psychological and existential suffering — now even the term “tired of life” is sufficient. We have also seen the restrictions on age and mental competency shift.

Reitsema says that at the beginning it appeared “reform” had reduced the euthanasia rate:

“From 2001 to 2005 numbers dropped from 3,500 to 2,300. Subsequently they started to rise again and are now at roughly 6,500 cases a year. This is more than 4 per cent of all deaths in any given year.”

After legalising euthanasia, the incentive to improve palliative care has declined and euthanasia moved from being an exceptional situation to the norm, according to Reitsema.

“When euthanasia is ever more frequently used, the tendency is then to move in the direction of euthanising those who are not able to request it owing to dementia or other incapacity. Paradoxically, that which was supposed to provide autonomy could lead to the ultimate loss of autonomy,” wrote Reitsema.

In Australia, there are moves to legalise euthanasia in Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.