Tony Snow's Oct. 5 column, "Death by lethal impatience?" presented such a distorted picture of what happens in the Netherlands that I feel compelled to set the record straight.
In the Netherlands, both euthanasia (life-termination on request) and assisted suicide remain criminal acts under the penal code. Only when a doctor follows a strict set of criteria can he or she avoid prosecution for the practice of euthanasia or assisted suicide. The main criteria are:
* The patient must have made voluntary, carefully considered and persistent requests to the doctor. This implies a long-term relationship of trust between a doctor and a patient.
* The patient's suffering must be unbearable and without prospect of improvement.
* The doctor and the patient must have considered and discussed alternatives to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
* The doctor must consult another doctor for a second opinion about the diagnosis and prognosis.
On the basis of these criteria, the public prosecutor will judge whether a doctor has exercised all due care. If any of the criteria are not satisfied, the case is referred to a court of law; otherwise, the decision is made not to prosecute. When a case comes before a court, the latter has to decide whether the doctor faced a conflict of duties and thus justifiably acted under force majeure. In other words, the court …