The Three Research Reports of 1990, 1995 and 2001, and Their Interpretations

Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 20)

Abstract

The Dutch understanding of euthanasia is said to be marked by its precision. Unlike other countries that distinguish between active and passive euthanasia, between direct and indirect euthanasia, and between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, the Dutch definition of the term is exact: the intentional taking of someone’s life at his or her explicit request. According to the law, only a competent patient’s request can be accepted. Consequently:
  1. a.

    What is termed “euthanasia” in the Netherlands is called “active euthanasia” in other parts of the world. In the Dutch conception, euthanasia is active by definition and there is no need to specify the act by the term “active,” as other countries do.

     
  2. b.

    All other kinds of end-of-life (“terminal”) care bear other names. Thus, for instance, withdrawal of treatment is not considered euthanasia. Elsewhere it is termed “passive euthanasia.” In the Netherlands, this term is deemed illogical and useless insofar as passive euthanasia is self-contradictory because it concerns the omission of a treatment to which the patient has not consented.1 Within the law, the difference between acting and refraining from acting has no particular relevance, and such a legal consideration takes precedence over the psychological experience of the difference. The prevailing Dutch perspective regards any treatment that has no clear medical benefit for the patient as futile. The argument is that no patient should be subjected to useless medical interventions, or that these treatments should be offered as an option to patients. In a leading test case, a Dutch court ruled that contrary to the wishes of the next of kin, a hospital was not obliged to return an 80-year-old cancer patient to intensive care when his condition was deteriorating.2

     

Keywords

Defend Abate Dick 

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