Human Exceptionalism

Dutch “Better Killed than Disabled” Bigotry

I have been reporting on the non-voluntary euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, the infanticide, euthanasia of the elderly “tired of life,” psychiatrists killing the mentally ill.

Often people hear this truth and yawn, “Oh, hum–but Brittany Maynard!”

Now, Gerbert van Loena–a Dutch (once) euthanasia supporting journalist whose partner became disabled only to experience disdain from friends and doctors–has written a book that exposes a pronounced Netherlander death-is-better-than-disabled cultural attitudes. From a review by Barbara Kay in the National Post of Do You Call This a Life?

Van Loenen found himself brooding over certain friends’ reactions to their situation. “It would have been better if he had died,” one said at the outset.

Another told Niek when he expressed frustration, “You choose to go on living, so you have no right to complain.” Once “an average Dutchman who thought of euthanasia as one of the crown jewels of our liberal country,” van Loenen became “someone who was shocked by the harsh tone used by the Dutch when they talked about handicapped life.”

Of course, disability rights activists will tell you they often hear such harsh and discriminatory attitudes here. But combining anti-disabled bigotry with the right to kill creates extreme peril for those deemed to have lives not worth living:

van Loenen says, cultural acceptance of euthanasia has progressed to the point that it is no longer the physician who ends someone’s life without request who must justify his actions; rather it is the physician who decides to prolong a life perceived as meaningless who feels societal pressure.

For me the most unsettling aspect of this fascinating and informative book is the marginalization of the central actor — the “better-off-dead” person — as the discussion turns more and more to the sensibilities of those who are affronted by his continued existence.

This is absolutely consistent with my research over the last 20 years. 

And it is going to get worse as the Dutch couple euthanasia with organ harvesting: ”Sorry, time to die. Someone else deserves your liver more than you.”

But Wesley! Don’t you know euthanasia is progressive and enlightened? No. I don’t.

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