Bioethics Blogs

New guidelines for euthanasia in the Netherlands

As I was doing some research on the issue of physician assisted suicide and patient requests for death, I came across a news headline titled “Euthanasia Rules Relaxed for People with Serious Dementia.” Intrigued, I followed the link to learn that the Netherlands are now allowing for aid in dying to occur when severely demented patients have a written euthanasia request. From my understanding, this document serves as a type of advance directive instructing physicians regarding euthanizing the patient once the dementia has progressed to a point where the patient would no longer be considered competent to make the request. The directive is to be written while the patient still retains competence.

I find this new “progression” of the euthanasia guidelines to be cause for concern on multiple points, even beyond my general objections to euthanasia:
– First, I’d like to learn more about the specifics of these guidelines, such as whether or not the written request for euthanasia is binding at law. If it is binding, it holds patients to a decision they make before they understood what living with the condition is like. There is always a possibility that what one thinks will be an intolerable condition of living, may not be as they supposed. Death is irreversible and moving forward with instruction to euthanize a patient is highly concerning, especially when at the time of the action the patient is not requesting death nor able to consent.
– Second, I’m concerned that the guideline change seems to focus on a group that should be granted extra protection legally, and allows for their destruction instead.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.