February 22, 2024

Dutch euthanasia guidelines now in English

A great resource for accurate critiques

Here’s a very helpful resource in debating euthanasia: the code of practice for the regional euthanasia review committees in the Netherlands in English. (This is a link to a PDF. Choose the second option to download the file.)These are the guidelines which doctors must follow in carrying out euthanasia. For those who cannot read Dutch, the fine details of the legislation and regulation have been difficult to reference. Now they are available in a definitive form.

Here are some relevant paragraphs:

It is often said that the [e Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act] legalised euthanasia. In formal terms, this is not the case. Under articles 293 and 294 of the Criminal Code, euthanasia is prohibited in the Netherlands, except in the event that it is performed by a physician who has complied with all the due care criteria set out in the Act (see below) and has notified the municipal pathologist in question. …

The Act says nothing about the patient’s life expectancy. In cases where the statutory due care criteria have been fulfilled, the patient’s life expectancy plays no role. In practice, it will often be limited, but the Act does not rule out granting a request for euthanasia from a patient who might have many years to live. The key elements are the voluntary, well-considered nature of the patient’s request, the unbearable nature of his suffering and the absence of any prospect of improvement. There is no provision in the Act that euthanasia may only be performed in the ‘terminal stage’. …

The fact that the above due care criteria have been met does not mean that the physician is obliged to comply with a patient’s request for euthanasia. Patients have no right to euthanasia, and physicians no duty to perform it. It is generally wise for a physician to inform the patient at an early stage if he does not want to perform euthanasia, so that the patient can, if desired, approach another physician.

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