I've commented here before, rather passionately, on the unpleasant equation of being lonely with having a worthless or futile life. In particular, I've commented on these quotations from Roger Scruton, which make exactly that frightening mistake:
A world in which increasingly many human beings are without affectionate relations with their kind, persisting as burdens to be carried rather than companions to be enjoyed, will be a world in which human life seems far less precious than it seems to us today.
The critical question is longevity itself, which has brought about a situation in which we all have something to fear worse than death, namely the living death of the loveless.
(There is a lot more at the linked older post, including more from Scruton and much interesting discussion.)
The word Scruton didn't use, instead of "the loveless" is "the unloved." That is, of course, what he's really talking about. It would have made a big difference to the meaning of the sentence had he done so--placing the blame for the situation at least not entirely on the elderly who live "too long" and at least somewhat on those who fail to love them. Another word, also beginning with L, that he could have used instead of "loveless" is "lonely."
And now, the Dutch have become practical about this. They have expanded the definition of "suffering" in connection with doctor-assisted death to include "non-medical factors such as income or loneliness." Here's a longer list:
As people age, many suffer from a complex array of gradually worsening problems, which can include poor eyesight, deafness, fatigue, difficulty in walking and incontinence as well as loss of dignity, status, financial resources, an ever-shrinking social network and loss of social skills. Although this accumulation of ailments and diseases is not life-threatening as such, it does have a negative impact on the quality of life and make[s] the elderly vulnerable or fragile.
Well, hey, if you're vulnerable or fragile, if you're impoverished or lonely, you might be in "unbearable suffering." How about dying, old chap? But let's not rush to judgement. If those factors are included, other "specialists" are to be consulted before the person is actually euthanized. I feel so much better.
Addendum: If you haven't previously read this well-written excerpt from a book by Thomas E. Schmidt--about a woman who might well have been said to be "persisting as a burden to be carried" and all the rest of it--it's worth a read. Please note that the blogger who posted the excerpt is not the author. I say this partly because Schmidt (inexcusably, especially in a Christian author) uses the "v-word" for two of the people in the nursing home he was visiting, and I wouldn't want the blogger who posted to be blamed for using the word. Despite that, Schmidt sees, at least in the case of Mabel, that the loneliness of the ill and the vulnerable is a challenge to the rest of society, not a sign that their lives are valueless.
What the Dutch case shows us, terrifyingly, is how easy it is for people who are presumably, by and large, as "nice" as most people, to come to hear words like "fragile," "vulnerable," and "lonely" not as calls to action, not as calls to active love and compassion, but as calls to kill. God preserve us from that change in our own hearing.