91% of Catholics in the Netherlands have said they are in favour of euthanasia under certain circumstances.

Driving the news

The surprising finding is contained in a new report released Tuesday in The Hague by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The poll found that, among Dutch Catholics, just 3.3% think euthanasia should not be allowed at all.

91.3% of Catholics in the Netherlands believe euthanasia should be allowed under certain circumstances and 5.4% gave no answer to the survey.

The “certain circumstances” referred to in the poll grouped together reasons such as advanced dementia, serious mental disorders, terminally ill children and people “who are tired of life”.

The big picture

The highest opposition to euthanasia in the survey came from Dutch Muslims, 42.2% of whom said they opposed the practice in all situations, compared to 14.5% of Dutch Reformed, 30.9% of Reformed, 12.5% of Protestant and 29.2% of people of other religious backgrounds.

Among those Dutch people identifying no religious background, just 0.7% said they were against euthanasia.

Among the Dutch population at large, 7.7% said they did not agree with euthanasia, 87.1% said they agreed with it in certain circumstances and 5.2% did not respond.

The circumstances in which euthanasia found its greatest support among citizens of the Netherlands were advanced dementia (79.5%), terminally ill children (75.1%), severe mental disorders (73.7%) and in people who are tired of life (54.8%).

Go deeper

With regard to the role of the doctor faced with a request for euthanasia, 40.2% of Dutch people said the physician should be allowed to refuse the petition, even if the patient mets all legal criteria to end their life.

37.6% of people said a doctor shouldn’t be allowed to refuse such a request.

Among those who believe a physician can object out of conscience to fulfilling a patient’s petition to end their life, nearly 8 in 10 say that objecting doctor should refer the patient along to another doctor.

Why it matters

Euthanasia has been legal under certain circumstances in the Netherlands since 2002.

Those circumstances include the terminal illness of children over the age of twelve, if those children ask to end their lives and have their parents’ consent, which is no longer required over the age of 16.

The CBS stated that the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees received 6,126 notifications of euthanasia just in 2018, a slight fall in annual figures for the first time since the practice was legalised.

The high levels of support for euthanasia among Dutch Catholics are a surprise, given that the Church teaches that the practice in all cases is “morally unacceptable”, as the Catechism states.

Pope Francis has also been vocal in his opposition to euthanasia, stating just in September, for example, that while it presents as an exercise in “personal freedom”, assisted dying is really just a reduction to utilitarianism.

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