Dr JV Larsen repsonds to the article The right to life – and death.
Andrew Verrijdt identifies but fails to recognise the importance of a feature of the case of the deaf Belgian twins who were euthanised because they were losing their sight ("The right to life – and death", Health, February 22). That case is an example of how the legal criteria for euthanasia are progressively extended, in practice, far beyond their intended boundaries in every country where assisted suicide has been implemented.
With each extension, more and more vulnerable people are endangered. A clear example is Holland, where voluntary assisted suicide was introduced in 1982. By 1986, in 56% of reported cases, patients were killed by doctors without their request or permission.
This challenges Verrijdt's assumption that autonomous individuality is the most important value in the euthanasia debate. The security of a vulnerable people is a deeper value.
If assisted suicide were illegal in the twins' area, they would have been brought through their fear of blindness and effective ways would have been found to enable them to communicate. The crisis could have been used for personal growth and they would still be living meaningful lives. – Dr JV Larsen, Howick