Law proposal ready for euthanasia on islands

THE HAGUE -The Dutch Government is preparing the legal structure to legalise euthanasia in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba by October 10 this year.

Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers has submitted a law proposal to the Second Chamber to adapt a number of existing laws for the islands. It concerns the Declaration of Passing Law, the Funeral Law, the Cremation Law and the Penal Code.

"These adaptations take away the last hurdles to introduce legislation regarding euthanasia and suicide with assistance in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba no later than October 10, 2012," stated Schippers in the document to Dutch Parliament.

The Minister remarked that with the law proposal she is complying with an amendment that was carried by a majority in Parliament and which was submitted by the liberal democratic VVD party and the green left party GroenLinks in March 2010.

The VVD and GroenLinks at that time forced the legalisation of three ethical issues on the three Dutch 'public entities,' euthanasia, abortion and same sex marriages, much against the wish of then State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ank Bijleveld-Schouten.

The prerequisites that Schippers proposes in the adaptations to the laws in question are necessary for a correct procedural handling of a report of euthanasia or suicide with assistance.

For example, a medical expert of the local Executive Council will have to report cases of euthanasia or suicide with assistance. This expert will then inform the Public Prosecutor, the civil servant of the Civil Registry and the regional board of review. This board will then decide whether all legal requirements of precaution have been met.

The Public Prosecutor must issue a declaration of no objection before the body can be buried or cremated. This is the same procedure as in The Netherlands, bearing in mind that euthanasia is punishable by law unless all requirements of precaution have been met. A patient will have to give permission for euthanasia.

The law proposal should be approved by the Second Chamber before the summer recess to enable the First Chamber to handle this matter before October 10. It is expected that a majority in both the Second and First Chamber will carry the law proposal.

The abortion law went already into effect in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba on October 10 last year. This law, however, cannot be put into practice, because so far no medical facility of doctor has requested the necessary permit.

24 February 2012

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