Should euthanasia be the new definition for black?
"Do not kill yourself," said world pianist Arthur Rubinstein, "you’ll regret it within a year."
He knew what he was talking about. 21-year-old, penniless and desperate, he decided to take his life. The question was: how? "I had no guns, no poison, and the thought of jumping out the window was disgusting - I could well be forced to go through life with broken arms and legs."
It got to be hanging. Young Arthur drew the belt from his old coat and fixed it on a hook in the bathroom. But when the suicide attempt was made the belt slipped off and he tumbled to the floor.
This happened in Berlin in 1908. In those days one could not get suicide assistance. But 100 years later the suicide industry seems to thrive.
Holland has been at the forefront of active euthanasia. As the first country after Nazi Germany legalized, its practice was legalized in 2002.
More and more people make use of their new rights. In 2003 the number of people killed were 1815 people, the 2008 number was 2331 and the year after that, 2636.
This week, Dutch Radio reported that the association NVVE, "Dutch Association for Voluntary Death", is now seeking funding to open a suicide clinic where not only dying, but also people with mental illnesses and early dementia, can be helped to kill themselves.
Whether the clinic becomes a reality or not, it is a frightening development.
When a euthanasia debate begins in one country - as it has in Sweden - is it always the most severely ill, the dying, those with irregular pains, which are taken as examples of people who should be allowed to "die with dignity", as they say in these contexts.
Now, nine years after the groundbreaking law in the Netherlands we are talking about people who are not dying, but that is - so what? Looking into the near future will it include, the guilt-ridden, the lonely, victims of poor mental health?
We should not be surprised at the development. When a society has abandoned the view that health care is to cure and alleviate illness, and begin to see death as a "cure", then there really is no upper barrier.
People can, of course, be deemed unworthy to live meaningless, unbearable lives for almost reasons whatsoever.
Moreover, it is conceivable that the better standard of living people attain to, the more "security addictive' the influential middle class can afford to become; the tighter and more luxurious is the definition of what constitutes" a dignified life ".
In Holland, euthanasia opponents argue that the increase in active death-assistance is because life-care has deteriorated since the law was enacted They are not alone in that interpretation. Even former Health Minister Els Borst, who pushed through the law, has complained that it appears to have undermined the palliative care.
What would happen if a society became accustomed to the idea of mental illness and dementia (sufferers) may / can / should choose death?
How would it affect health care resources? And, above all, what would it be like to have a psychiatric diagnosis and to know that the "dignified" way to confront it, according to the prevailing norm, is to ask to die?
Arthur Rubinstein said in his memoirs that after the suicide attempt ended he emerged into a changed world. Before his mental trial, he had prepared himself by painting everything in gloomy colors. But now: "The streets, trees, houses, dogs chasing each other, men and women, everything looked different." His life changed forever.
"In this chaos, I discovered secret of happiness, which I still cherish: Love life for better or for worse, unconditionally."
translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm