Human rights groups around the world have been responding with shock to the news that the Dutch parliament approved a bill to legalise euthanasia yesterday (Tuesday) . The bill passed the Second Chamber by a vote of 104-40. It still needs the approval of the Senate, but that is considered a formality, and the bill is expected to be law next year. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have been openly practised in the Netherlands for decades even though they were against the law. Under the new law, a patient will be able to make a written request for euthanasia, giving doctors the right to use their own discretion when patients become too physically or mentally ill to decide for themselves. Advocates say the law puts the Dutch in the vanguard of patient rights, while opponents say it will replace caring with killing. Dr Jack Scarisbrick, chair of Life, said: "This ruling sets back medicine a generation and is terribly corrupting for the medical profession. It is an affront to the hospice movement. A totally primitive response to terminal illness at a time when palliative care has made such great progress in other countries in the past 20 years. "Making euthanasia a legal option for a sick person is very destructive for human relations. Elderly people will be afraid to go to hospital. They will be afraid of medical staff. They might choose euthanasia because they don't want to be a burden. They could be bullied into it. "Death is a very important event in one's life and people in their last days should be made to feel valued and as comfortable as possible. "It is a fact that palliative care in Holland is a generation behind other countries because doctors know they have this option there. At a conference recently a Dutch doctor actually said the health service in his country was not focussing on pain relief for the terminally ill because it was no longer an issue there." "The fact is, while patients in Holland may ask to be helped to commit suicide, statistically, about 20 per cent are unable to go through with it and the final jab is given by the doctor."
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