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Dutch Euthanasia Law Evaluation shows further improvement of carefulness

ZonMW, an internationally renowned Health-care and -innovation research Institute, performed a second Evaluation on the implementation and practice of the Dutch Euthanasia Law (2002). In December the long awaited report was presented. The overall conclusion of the second evaluation of the Act Termination of life on Request and Assisted Suicide is that the Act has succeeded in improving the carefulness of physicians who terminate the life of a patient upon his request and in providing a transparent and consistent legal framework for this practice. The results of the study nevertheless involve a number of recommendations for policy making and further research, among which:

  • The requirement concerning due medical care when performing euthanasia or assisting in suicide should be assessed outside the context of criminal law;
  • The Criminal Code should include an explicit statement that termination of life does not include the indicated and proportional use of medication to relieve suffering, even if such medication hastens death;
  • In due time, the practice of termination of life in the context of the End-of-life Clinic should be independently evaluated, in order to assess the relationship between this Clinic and the legal requirements. Such a study may also evaluate other initiatives to address the issue of physicians who are unwilling to grant requests for euthanasia or assistance in suicide;
  • Training programs for (future) physicians should pay attention to the distinction between termination of life on the one hand and palliative sedation and the use of opioids in the last phase of life on the other;
  • Professional medical and nursing organisations should develop a guideline about the role and responsibilities of physicians and nurses in cases where patients voluntarily stop eating and drinking with the aim of ending their life.

The full report (in Dutch with an English Summary) can be read here.

The full English Summary (only)