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I recently lectured at a pro-life international conference in The Hague, Netherlands, where 21 countries were represented. The timing was ironic because the Parliament was scheduled to hold hearings on a law that would officially legalize euthanasia, which is already widespread in that country. The Hague is the capital of the Netherlands, and our conference was held within blocks of the legislative action. Some attendees of the conference and I decided to sit in on part of the hearings.
Walking across the cobblestones and under the vast archway was like being transported into the past. This was the same courtyard where Queen Beatrix arrives in her gold-adorned carriage every third Tuesday in September to open Parliament. The event is held with great fanfare and pageantry.
Today, however, the courtyard was silent except for an occasional pedestrian. The drizzling rain seemed to add to the somber reason for our visit. Once through the courtyard and around the corner, we were at the entrance to the Parliament building. After a brief security check, we received our badges declaring our approved visitor status.
Upon passing through the security doors we were struck by the dramatic way architects had blended the old with the new. The stately old buildings quickly gave way to shiny chrome and glass. An escalator whisked us up two floors where the committee hearing was already underway. State-of-the-art design and function in office construction surrounded us.
The old and new architecture paralleled with the old and new way the Netherlands protected targeted segments of its society. During World War II, Hollands physicians risked their careers and lives by courageously standing up to Hitler and his army by refusing to take part in the extermination of the Jews. Sadly, it is Hollands physicians who are now leading the way in exterminating those who are weak and ill. While it can be argued that Hollands architects change from the old to the new benefited form and function, it is tragic that the new way of looking at societys most helpless has no redeeming qualities, but offers only death and hopelessness.
The contemporary architectural theme continued into the hearing room. Nothing was out of place. There was a large table in the shape of a semicircle at the head of the hearing room. Seated around it on the left were various individuals testifying. On the right were members of the Committee for Justice. Heads raised around the table as we entered the room. There were several of us, and we obviously represented various nationalities. We nearly filled the remaining available seating to capacity. A television camera was front and center, recording the day’s event.
Uniformed stewards took orders for liquid refreshments and served them to those seated at the table. Every indication seemed to demonstrate that we were observing a refined and civilized society. But after the testimony was translated, an alarming nonchalant attitude emerged regarding a bill that would have profound implications on tens of thousands of peoples lives.
The representative of the Dutch Physicians Association was very happy with the proposed law because (1) physicians could not be prosecuted and (2) he said doctors will now report to the government more cases of euthanasia. When questioned by a Committee member as to why he was confident more reporting by physicians would be done, he offered no documentation. It was only his opinion.
A representative of the Organization of Nurses complained that nurses are not also exempted from prosecution, as they are more involved than doctors in the day-to-day care of patients. This organization was already advocating a widening of the law. Of those who testified regarding this euthanasia bill, only one person was an advocate for life.
The odds for stopping this legislation in the Parliament are not on the side of pro-lifers. However, there is more hope within the Senate chamber. It seems that some senators have taken issue with the ramifications of this bill on their constitution. If physicians are singled out and exempted from prosecution under a specific law, who then would be next to request this special treatment? In their view this may be opening a Pandoras box.
Should The Netherlands formalize into law what is already quietly practiced, it will encourage other European countries such as Switzerland and Belgium, which are currently considering liberal pro-euthanasia bills.