In the last week of November, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament passed a bill that made the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). U.S. newspapers printed brief wire stories about the event, but our nation's editorialists and opinion writers were distracted by the Florida election.
In the first week of December, The New England Journal of Medicine published a report by four medical researchers, showing that 75 percent of those who had died at the hands of Jack Kevorkian, Michigan's grandstanding advocate of pas, were not actually terminally ill. Again the nation's newspapers printed only well-buried wire stories.
Unfortunately, the media focus on Florida, as important as it was, failed to keep us informed on developments with serious moral consequences; and it missed an opportunity to stimulate public debate on a vital public concern.
Here is some of what American readers missed:
1. The lower house of the Dutch Parliament passed a more restrictive bill than euthanasia and PAS advocates had been pushing for. Originally, the bill would have extended the age for euthanasia without parental consent as low as 12 years. Fortunately, this proposal of the radical D66 party was unable to garner a majority. But the new law still accords this level of autonomy to 16-year-olds.
2. The parliamentary vote was lopsided. The bill passed 104-40, reflecting the attitudes of the Dutch population, which some reports pegged at 90 percent in favor. Only the Christian Democrats and three small Calvinist parties voted against the bill. The upper house's approval of the bill this spring is expected to be a mere formality.
3. In Canada and the United Kingdom, PAS activists quickly used ...1
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