Bioethics News

A new step to facilitate, even more, assisted suicide in the Netherlands

Who is providing assisted suicide or euthanasia, physicians or activists?

Assisted suicide was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002. According to a study published in 2012, between 1.7% and 2.8% of all deaths in Holland were due to euthanasia or assisted suicide.

However, not all assisted suicide requests are granted by physicians, with rates of granting requests varying between 32%32% and 45%45%.

Considering that this attitude of physicians may be contrary to the rights and desires of patients, Right to Die NL — a Dutch association that defends the right to euthanasia in the Netherlands — founded the End-of-Life Clinic in 2012. Its aim was to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide to patients who met all the legal requirements but whose attending physicians had rejected their request.

Between 1st March 2012 and 1st March 2013, 645 patients applied to the clinic with a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Of these, 162 requests were granted (25.1%) and 300 (46.5%) were refused; 124 patients (19.2%) died before their requests were assessed and 59 patients (9.1%) withdrew their requests.  Patients with somatic medical problems (113 of 344 [32.8%]) or cognitive disorders (21 of 56 [37.52%]) had the highest percentage of granted requests, while patients with psychological problems had the smallest percentage (6 of 121 [5.0%]).

The authors concluded that physicians attending patients in the final moments of their lives have more reservations about accepting requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide than staff at the “End-of-Life Clinic”, even though the latter reject around 46% of the requests received, mostly for legal reasons (JAMA 175; 1633-1640, 2015).

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.