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Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs FAQ EUTHANASIA 2010

Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs FAQ EUTHANASIA 2010

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Published by Michael Cook

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Published by: Michael Cook on Mar 08, 2012
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This is a publication of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act in practice 
CONTENTSQ 1. Why legislate on euthanasia?Q 2. Are doctors not punished for performing euthanasia?Q 3. What are the criteria for assessing whether a doctor has acted with due care?Q 4. Do doctors in the Netherlands always comply with requests for euthanasia?Q 5. Are doctors obliged to comply with requests for euthanasia?Q 6. Why do patients request euthanasia if good palliative and terminal care isavailable?Q 7. What is the notification procedure?Q 8. What is the procedure for consulting an independent physician?Q 9. Who sits on the regional review committees and how do they operate?Q 10. Does a written directive have the same status as an oral request?Q 11. What is the definition of ‘unbearable suffering with no prospect ofimprovement’?Q 12. Are doctors allowed to comply with a request for euthanasia made by a chronicpsychiatric patient?Q 13. Are doctors allowed to comply with a request for euthanasia made by a personsuffering from dementia?Q 14. But is it not the duty of a doctor to preserve life?Q 15. Can people come from other countries to seek euthanasia in the Netherlands?Q 16. Can a minor request euthanasia?Q 17. Is Dutch law on euthanasia compatible with international conventionsguaranteeing the right to life?Q 18. How willing are doctors to report cases of euthanasia?
Question 1: Why legislate on euthanasia?
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is understood to mean termination of life by a doctorat the request of a patient. Euthanasia does not mean simply desisting from treatment whenfurther intervention is pointless and allowing nature to take its course. This is acceptedmedical practice, as is the administration of drugs necessary to relieve pain even in theknowledge that they will have the side effect of hastening death.
The Dutch government does not want to turn a blind eye to the fact that euthanasia happens.The question of whether – and how – criminal liability for euthanasia should be restricted hasbeen the subject of broad political and public debate for the past thirty years.
The inclusion in the Criminal Code of a special ground for exemption from criminal liabilitymeans that doctors who terminate life on request or assist in a patient’s suicide can nolonger be prosecuted, provided they satisfy the statutory due care criteria (see question 3)and notify death by non-natural causes to the appropriate regional euthanasia reviewcommittee (see question 8).The main aim of the policy is to bring matters into the open, to apply uniform criteria inassessing every case in which a doctor terminates life, and hence to ensure that maximumcare is exercised in such exceptional cases.

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