UTRECHT, Netherlands, October 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has released new guidelines for interpreting the 2002 Euthanasia Act that now includes “mental and psychosocial ailments” such as “loss of function, loneliness and loss of autonomy” as acceptable criteria for euthanasia. The guidelines also allow doctors to connect a patient’s lack of “social skills, financial resources and a social network” to “unbearable and lasting suffering,” opening the door to legal assisted death based on “psychosocial” factors, not terminal illness.

The June 2011 position paper, titled “The Role of the Physician in the Voluntary Termination of Life” concludes that the “concept of suffering” is “broader” than its “interpretation and application by many physicians today.”

Included in a broader interpretation of suffering would be “disorders affecting vision, hearing and mobility, falls, confinement to bed, fatigue, exhaustion and loss of fitness,” according to the authors.

“The patient perceives the suffering as interminable, his existence as meaningless and—though not directly in danger of dying from these complaints—neither wishes to experience them nor, insofar as his history and own values permit, to derive meaning from them,” explains the KNMG position paper.

“In the KNMG’s view, such cases are sufficiently linked to the medical domain to permit a physician to act within the confines of the Euthanasia Law.”

“It doesn’t always have to be a physical ailment, it could be the onset of dementia or chronic psychological problems, it’s still unbearable and lasting suffering. It doesn’t always have to be a terminal disease,” said Dr. Nieuwenhuijzen Kruseman, Chairman of KNMG to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director and International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition committee responded to the new guidelines, saying that in his view “the expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide has been constant and deliberate.”

Schadenberg warned that what has happened in the Netherlands can—and will—occur in other jurisdictions, if euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is legalized.

When the Netherlands sanctioned euthanasia for emotionally ill patients in 1994, Karl Gunning, head of the Dutch Doctors’ Union warned the country of the “slippery slope” it was sliding down.

“We have always predicted that once you start looking at killing as a means to solve problems, then you’ll find more and more problems where killing can be the solution,” he said.

Prominent conservative bioethical commentator Wesley J. Smith wondered on his blog how anyone can say that ‘there is no slippery slope’ with the legalization of euthanasia when “loneliness” is now one of the legally recognized factors in the decision to end one’s life.

“Since 1973, when euthanasia was quasi decriminalized, Dutch doctors have gone from euthanizing the terminally ill who ask for it, to the chronically ill who ask for it, to people with disabilities who ask for it, to the mentally anguished who ask for it…And now, they want to target vulnerable and marginalized elderly people.”

“The Culture of Death is voracious. Once it begins to feed, it is never satiated. [T]he categories of the killable [are] never finally enough.”

“This is compassion?” asked Smith rhetorically.