following Fact Sheet has been prepared by the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia
Society (SAVES). For further information visit their website at http://www.saves.asn.au
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
Euthanasia in the Netherlands:
the Netherlands, in common with many other countries, the following is
regarded as sound medical practice:
to withhold or withdraw treatment which is unduly burdensome and/or
futile from a dying patient even though this may hasten death;
provide medication to a dying patient to relieve suffering even when
a foreseeable consequence is to hasten death.
doctor who deliberately induces the death of a patient, or assists in
the suicide of a patient commits a criminal offence. However, prior to
2000, the Dutch judicial system, in consultation with the Royal Dutch
Medical Association, developed arrangements under which such a doctor
would not be prosecuted provided certain guidelines and procedures were
Dutch Parliament formalised these arrangements in 1994, thus ackowledging
that in certain circumstances deliberately inducing the death of a patient
and assisting in the suicide of a patient should also be regarded as sound
medical practice. However, the Dutch Parliament decided that these practices
were to remain criminal offences. This changed in 2000.
guidelines prior to 2000 included the following:
a doctor may administer a lethal dose and individual doctors are free
must be an explicit request from the patient that leaves no room for
doubt that the patient wishes to die.
patient's decision must be well-informed, free and enduring.
is no acceptable alternative (to the patient) to improve his or her
doctor must exercise due care in making the decision and consult another
independent medical doctor.
doctor must notify the authorities of the circumstances.
the arrangements the doctor inducing death or providing assistance to
suicide did not issue a death certificate. Instead the doctor informed
the local medical examiner by completing an extensive questionnaire. The
medical examiner then reported to the district attorney. The district
attorney only prosecuted if the doctor departed from the above guidelines.
nation-wide study of "medical decisions concerning the end of life (MDEL)",
(ie treatment decisions in which life may perhaps be shortened) was carried
out in 1990. The study was repeated in 1995 and an evaluation of the notification
procedure for doctor-assisted death was also undertaken. The results of
these studies became available late in 1996.
1995 studies affirmed the careful practice of voluntary euthanasia by
Dutch doctors (See Fact Sheet 17 - Voluntary
Euthanasia in the Netherlands - An Update). Following this second study
the Dutch Government then announced plans for improved palliative care
services and reporting procedures, which they introduced in late 1997.
November 2000, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament approved a Bill to
decriminalise voluntary euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide in certain
circumstances. The Upper House gave final approval to it in April 2001.
information contact SAVES at: http://www.saves.asn.au
contact: Hon Secretary, SAVES, PO Box 2151, Kent Town, SA 5071, Australia
- Fax + 61 8 8265 2287