The Dutch experience

Issues Law Med. Spring 2002;17(3):223-46.


Euthanasia has been legally sanctioned in the Netherlands by a series of court decisions going back to the 1970s. The author discusses the cultural and historical factors that may have contributed to this development. In the past decade, studies sanctioned by the Dutch government reveal that guidelines established for the regulation of euthanasia--a voluntary, well-considered, persistent request, intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved, consultation with a colleague, and reporting of cases--are consistently violated. Of greatest concern is the number of patients who are put to death without their consent--there are more involuntary than voluntary cases. Euthanasia intended originally for the exceptional case has become an accepted way of dealing with the physical and mental distress of serious or terminal illness. In the process palliative care has become one of the casualties while hospice care lags behind that of other countries. Case examples are given.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Culture
  • Decision Making
  • Euthanasia, Active / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Euthanasia, Active / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Pain
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Religion
  • Social Values
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Suicide, Assisted / statistics & numerical data
  • Terminal Care