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Assisted Death in Europe and AmericaFour Regimes and Their Lessons$
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Guenter Lewy

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199746415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199746415.001.0001

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Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

(p.18) 2 Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide in the Netherlands
Assisted Death in Europe and America

Guenter Lewy

Oxford University Press

Despite provisions in Dutch law criminalizing all forms of assisted death, a series of court cases since the 1970s made both voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, when carried out with what the courts called “due care,” a practice that carried little risk of prosecution. Legalization, when it came in 2002, for the most part merely changed the law to conform to what long had become accepted by the public, the medical profession, and the courts. This chapter describes the path to legalization and the provision of the 2002 law. It presents demographic and other relevant data concerning end-of-life care. It analyzes problem areas in the practice of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, including failure to report cases of assisted death, ending life without explicit request of the patient, termination of life in pediatric cases, and assisted death for patients with mental suffering. Great improvements in palliative care during the last decade mean that most of those who choose assisted death do so for valid personal reasons and not because of the inadequacy of their terminal care. The chapter ends with an assessment of the Dutch regime. It concludes that the real difference between the Netherlands and countries that criminalize assisted death is that in the Netherlands this practice is out in the open and subject to legal control. While this system of control, like the enforcement of laws everywhere, is imperfect, it is probably better than no legal control at all.

Keywords:   Dutch law, assisted death, due care, euthanasia, physically-assisted suicide, mental suffering, palliative care, Netherlands

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