Euthanasia: The Moral Issues

By Robert M. Baird; Stuart E. Rosenbaum | Go to book overview

14
Justifiable Active Euthanasia
in the Netherlands

Pieter Admiraal

Justifiable active euthanasia is practiced in Holland only with patients who are in the terminal phase of an incurable, usually malignant, disease. We offer these patients the best possible terminal care and euthanasia may be the last dignified act.

Euthanasia is widely accepted in Holland and up to five thousand cases are performed annually; but it is still illegal and every doctor who practices it is liable to prosecution. However, such prosecutions are not pursued provided that certain clearly circumscribed guidelines are followed; the law then accepts that the doctor acted under a conflict of duties in which he submitted to the force majeure, the merciful moral compulsion to relieve the patient of unbearable suffering.

Under these guidelines, the patient must have been informed of his situation and must have requested euthanasia freely as the result of careful consideration; the doctor must believe that termination of the patient's life was justified because there were no alternatives to the patient's untenable situation; the doctor had to have consulted another, independent doctor and filed a report about the case. After performing euthanasia, a doctor must report an unnatural death to

____________________
From Free Inquiry9, No. 1 (Winter 1988-89). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

-125-

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