Euthanasia in the Netherlands

By de Wachter, Maurice A. M. | The Hastings Center Report, March-April 1992 | Go to article overview

Euthanasia in the Netherlands


de Wachter, Maurice A. M., The Hastings Center Report


The growing debate about physician aid-in-dying has often invoked the Netherlands as a case study and has drawn somewhat indiscriminately on the Dutch experience to support arguements both for and against physician-assisted suicide and, especially, euthanasia. In December 1990 the Insititute for Bioethics in Maastricht assembled a group of seven Dutch and seven international experts for a two-day conference to examine the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands. The conference was explicity intended to promote better understanding of the Dutch situation and to foster a critical yet constructive dialogue concerning these practices. Thus in addition to papers outlining the current state of law and practice, presentations addressed the social and ethical dimensions of physician aid-in-dying. Given its topic and goals, the conference quite naturally took the form of scrutinizing, debating, and justifying the practices of Dutch physicians in caring for patients at the end of life.

In his opening remarks Dr. L.B.J. Stuyt, president of the conference, noted that a central concern was the "wide divergence in the definition of term" that hampers mutual understanding and must be clarified. To lay the foundation for our further discussions, then, I examined the current Dutch definition of euthanasia.

What Are We Talking About?

Although |euthanasia' has been performed and publicly debated in the Netherlands for several decades, here as elsewhere the word is still used for many different practices of helping patients in their last moments of life. The Dutch debate has developed a growing consensus by focusing on competent patients who request that a doctor either assist them to take their own life (assisted suicide) or actively end life for them (euthanasia).

The definition of euthanasia widely accepted in the Netherlands is: the active termination of a patient's life at his or her request, by a physician. Although euthanasia is technically illegal, physicians who adhere to three important conditions recognized by the courts and endorsed by the State Commission on Euthanasia in 1985[1] are in practice not subject to criminal sanctions.

Voluntariness. The patient's request must be persistent, conscious and freely made. In the Netherlands "voluntary euthanasia" is a tautology and "involuntary euthanasia" a contradiction in terms.

Unbearable suffering. The patient's suffering, including but not limited to physical pain, cannot be relieved by any other means; both physician and patient must consider the patient's condition to be beyond recovery or amelioration.

Consultation. The attending physician must consult with a colleague regarding the patient's condition and the genuineness and appropriateness of the request for euthanasia.

Dutch law independently requires that physicians accurately report the cause of death and though not specifically directed toward the practice of euthanasia, this provision figures importantly as a safeguard. The extent to which it is actually adhered to has, however, been the focus of considerable debate and was recently addressed in two independent surveys of Dutch physicians.[2]

It is important to stress that several medical practices at the end of life are not considered euthanasia under this definition: respecting tha patient's refusal of treatment (whether before or after treatment has begun), abstaining from medically futile treatment, and giving needed pain medication in doses that may hasten death.

Just as it is incorrect to state that euthanasia is legal (it is specifically prohibited by Article 293 of the Dutch Penal Code), it is an oversimplification to state that euthanasia is accepted in the Netherlands. Certainly both debate and practice are more open and developed in the Netherlands than in other Western countries, but Dutch society recognizes that many serious question remain.

Moreover, in working toward a comprehensive ethical and legal framework to guide practice we must remember that definitions are not morally neutral. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.