Mercy killing in the Netherlands is something that is very much integrated into the normal life of hospitals and it is a subject with which general practitioners are often involved. Whether it is a subject that is widely accepted by the Dutch population is a different matter. There are many pros and cons in respect of mercy killing and below I would like to highlight a number of the arguments used by the different sides.
The main argument in favour of mercy killing is that it is possible to reduce the excessive suffering of patients with severe illnesses, such as cancer, that cause an enormous amount of pain, which often cannot be reduced by heavy pain killers. Many people who suffer severely, ask their doctors and nurses to stop the pain by helping them with applying a method of mercy killing. This sometimes results in problems with families, who do not accept the decision of the patient and the assistance that is rendered by the doctors and the nurses. It gets more troublesome in case the patients are in a state that they cannot decide for themselves and the family puts pressure on doctors to apply the mercy killing.
Other people are against mercy killing, often because of their religious beliefs, as they reckon with the fact that God can do a miracle at the last moment and let the patient live without suffering. They point to many cases where the doctors have given up hope and whereby the patient at the end recovered. These are difficult issues and shows how important it is that the people surrounding a case of severe illness and pain are heard by the medical staff so that no mistakes are made. Problems in this respect can be avoided by good communication between the medical staff, the patient and the families. One also hears arguments against mercy killing by referring to families, who want their "beloved ones" dead, in order to get an early inheritance. This is of course an issue that is carefully reviewed by doctors who do not want to be an instrument of "murder".
Mercy killing, at times, can happen on the battle fields, when soldiers are seriously wounded and no chance of any immediate help is available. Friend can help them to die sooner and suffer less. It is understandable that this is extremely difficult for these friends, as it is difficult to be absolutely sure that there is no possibility of survival. But in such circumstances quick decisions are required, because their own life is at stake.
It can be concluded that mercy killing will remain a subject that is debated many times all over the world and it is essential the law and regulation that rule mercy killing take into account important developments in the society in order to accommodate different groups of people within the general perception of ethics of today.