Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Euthanasia and Law in the Netherlands

Euthanasia and Law in the Netherlands

John Griffiths
Alex Bood
Heleen Weyers
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 382
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Euthanasia and Law in the Netherlands
    Book Description:

    The Netherlands is the only country in the world in which euthanasia, under narrow-defined circumstances, is legally permissible. Considerable attention has been paid over a number of years to the problem of regulating it and information has been systematically collected concerning actual practice. Therefore the Dutch experience is of interest not only to the Dutch, but to anyone who is considering wether or not to make euthanasia a legal practice. This book is written for a reader without specific knowledge of law. The central focus of the book is on Dutch law pertaining to euthanansia, but it also considers the moral and legal principles that have played a role in the Dutch debate, the available evidence bearing on actual practice and on the effectiveness of legal control. It ends with some reflections on the problem of the 'slippery slope' and the question whether the Dutch experience is 'exportable'. It includes translations of the relevant legislation (including proposed reforms) and of three leading cases. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0570-8
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Extended Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-XVI)
  4. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. XVII-XVIII)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 1-2)
    John Griffiths, Alex Bood and Heleen Weyers
  6. Glossary
    (pp. 3-8)
  7. Prologue: the Netherlands and the Dutch
    (pp. 9-14)

    This book is about euthanasia and other medical practices that shorten life, and about their legal regulation. The Netherlands is the setting, but it is not the subject. Nevertheless, in interpreting the information and arguments to be presented in the coming chapters, it is necessary to know something about the local context. We try to provide a thumbnail sketch here that goes beyond the relaxed Dutch approach to sex and drugs, or the story of the little boy who put his finger in the dike. We make no pretention to thoroughness or depth.

    The Netherlands is a small, flat country...

  8. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 15-30)

    The Netherlands is presently the only country in the world in which euthanasia, under specific circumstances, is legally permissible.’ Considerable attention has been paid over a number of years to the problem of regulating it. And information has been systematically collected concerning actual practice. The Dutch experience is therefore of considerable interest both to the Dutch themselves and also to people elsewhere who are considering whether or not to make similar practices legal and, if this is done, how they might most effectively be regulated.

    The central focus of the book is on Dutch law pertaining to euthanasia and a...

  9. Intermezzo: The Dutch Health-Care System and the Care of the Terminally III
    (pp. 31-42)

    In thisintermezzowe describe some features of the Dutch health-care system that are essential to an understanding of Dutch euthanasia practice and the problems associated with its regulation.’ After a brief general introduction to the Dutch health-care system (section A) we will deal specifically with the institutions in which people in the Netherlands die (section B) and with the health-care professionals responsible for such patients (section Cl.

    The Dutch are relatively healthy compared with the inhabitants of other countries.’ Life expectancy at birth in 1993 was 74.0 years for men and 80.1 years for women. With an average life...

  10. 2 Legal Change 1945-1997’
    (pp. 43-88)

    Recent developments in the Netherlands regarding the legality of euthanasia and other medical behavior that shortens life are extraordinarily interesting. The subject is fundamental and it has profound existential, philosophical, and political implications. But the process itself is fascinating, too, partly because it has been so complex and partly because it has been so open. The legal norms that currently seem to be valid have not emerged from legislation nor in any simple way from judicial decisions, but from interaction between the medical profession (in particular the Medical Association), interest groups (in particular the Association for Voluntary Euthanasia), the Government,...

  11. 3 The Current Legal Situation
    (pp. 89-156)

    In chapter 2 we have described the process of public debate and legal change that has led, over a period of almost 30 years, to the current state of affairs in Dutch law concerning euthanasia and related forms of medical behavior that shortens life. The purpose of the present chapter is to describe in a detailed and accurate but non-technical way what that law is.’

    The chapter consists of two parts. The first two sections deal with matters on which legal development has fairly run its course and the applicable legal rules can be stated with some certainty. After dealing...

  12. 4 The Terms of Debate since 1982
    (pp. 157-196)

    The central question around which the political euthanasia debate revolves is: to what extent and on what basis should the state become involved in the relationship between someone who wishes to die and someone who, at the request of this person, brings about his death or provides assistance to this end? More specifically, should the state legally prohibit a doctor from honoring a patient’s request for help to end his life? Within the Dutch euthanasia debate, a variety of arguments for and against the legalization of euthanasia have been advanced. The most important of these will be presented in section...

  13. 5 What is Known about Medical Practice and its Regulation?
    (pp. 197-258)

    Earlier chapters have dealt with current Dutch law concerning euthanasia and other MBSL, with the process of legal change that led to this set of legal arrangements and with some of the fundamental concepts in terms of which the debate over legal change has been waged. The bulk of this chapter (sections 5.2 and 5.3) considers what is known about the actual practice of MBSL and the way its various sorts are currently regulated. Detailed and reliable empirical data have become available over the past 10 years, especially as a result of two major national studies commissioned by the Dutch...

  14. 6 Euthanasia and Other Medical Behavior that Shortens Life as a Problem of Regulation
    (pp. 259-298)

    It is generally assumed - not in the least, as we have seen in chapter 5.3.5, among doctors themselves - that effective control of euthanasia is important and that at least some of this control must take the form oflegalcontrol. That assumption is the point of departure in this chapter.

    Legal control is of course not the only possible, nor necessarily the most effective, form of control over the behavior of doctors (or anyone else). We can safely assume that doctors generally experience far more and more pressing social control from their professional surroundings than from the law...

  15. 7 Two Reflections on the Significance of the Dutch Experience
    (pp. 299-306)

    Wc would like to end this book with some brief reflections on the significance of the Dutch experience, in particular in connection with similar problems of legal policy else where. We consider two questions: (1) How should the Dutch experience be interpreted if one is concerned about the danger of a ‘slippery slope’ which leads inexorably from legalization of euthanasia to social practices that are abhorrent? (2) Is the Dutch approach to euthanasia relevant in the circumstances of other countries, particularly a country so vastly different in many ways as the United States?

    The spectre of a ‘slippery slope’ from...

  16. Appendix I: Some Relevant Legal Documents
    (pp. 307-320)
  17. Appendix II: Three Leading Cases
    (pp. 321-352)
  18. Literature
    (pp. 353-376)
  19. Index
    (pp. 377-382)