Assisted dying is about to be made legal in Canada. Professor Boer, one of the most vociferous objectors to assisted dying, was on television yesterday asserting (as he often does) that assisted death is not something the Canadians should get into because the most up to date results in the Netherlands have "seen deaths double in just six years" as a consequence of legalisation.
His facts are right, but his reasoning is peculiar, because he mistakenly assumes that an increased number of assisted deaths is a failure and not a success of the policy. The professor is looking at the situation the wrong way. If the issue is that the law prohibits people who want to die from dying, then those opposed to such a law are opposed because it is a law that forces people to stay alive and suffer against their will.
Contrary to Professor Boer's thinking, rather than the increased deaths being indication of a failed policy, they may actually be indication of a successful policy, as it can now mean people are able to die at their own volition. Or to put it another way, if deaths have doubled in six years since the assisted suicide law was passed in the Netherlands, then it may well suggest that before the law was passed an awful lot of people were staying alive when they'd rather be dead.
It is sloppy thinking to simply presume that an increase in assisted deaths is a bad thing, particularly if in endorsing the bill we are endorsing giving everyone who wants to die the chance to do so. Perhaps it's simply the case that there are more people in the Netherlands that want to die than Professor Boer first thought, and perhaps that is true of Canada (and the UK and US) too.