Earlier this month, various news outlets reported that a 17-year-old Dutch girl was put to death through euthanasia because she had been battling the trauma of childhood sexual assault and a subsequent rape. Days later those same news outlets were focusing on the fact that they erroneously had reported that her death was due to legal euthanasia in the Netherlands. Actually, her death was a decision she made with her family to starve herself to death.
The debate about the reporting overshadowed the more important question of why she chose to die. She had been sexually assaulted at age eleven and then was raped three years later. Because of that trauma she suffered from PTSD, depression, and eating disorders. All of this was tragic, from the original trauma right up to her decision to die.
Because she lived in the Netherlands, reporters naturally assumed she ended her life due to the liberal euthanasia laws in that country. I recently spoke in Europe about the impact these laws have had in that country, and how similar laws can now be found in the US. Physician-assisted suicide is available now to one in five Americans.
At the same time, we are learning what many of us predicted would take place with the legalization of euthanasia. Oxford researchers found that in states where physician-assisted suicides were legal, there was an increase in total suicides. A more recent Dutch study came to a similar conclusion finding that legalized euthanasia for psychiatric patients actually “contributes to a rise in their numbers.”
I’m not surprised. If you legalize something you get more of it. Make drugs legal. More people will try drugs. Make physician-assisted suicide legal. More people will try suicide. We know the history of the Netherlands and of the US states that have legalized euthanasia. Legislators and policy makers need to pay attention.