Preferences of the Dutch general public for a good death and associations with attitudes towards end-of-life decision-making

Palliat Med. 2006 Oct;20(7):685-92. doi: 10.1177/0269216306070241.


Background: Euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions are acceptable to the large majority of the Dutch public. Insight in the relationships of such acceptance, with characteristics considered important for a 'good death', may contribute to the understanding of this liberal attitude.

Method: Questionnaires were mailed to 1777 members of the Dutch public (response: 78%), containing questions relating to a good death, attitudes towards euthanasia, terminal sedation and increasing morphine, and demographics. Associations between characteristics of a good death and attitudes towards these end-of-life decisions were analysed.

Findings: Characteristics that were considered important for a good death were: the possibility to say goodbye to loved ones (94%), dying with dignity (92%), being able to decide about end-of-life care (88%), and dying free of pain (87%). Acceptance of euthanasia, terminal sedation and increasing morphine were related to the wish to have a dignified death, and with concerns about burdening relatives with terminal care. Acceptance of euthanasia was also associated with the wish to be able to decide about medical end-of-life treatments and about the moment of death.

Interpretation: Besides saying farewell and dying pain free and with dignity, many members of the Dutch public consider values of control and maintenance of independence as important for a good death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Euthanasia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Palliative Care / ethics
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Public Opinion*
  • Right to Die*
  • Suicide, Assisted / ethics
  • Suicide, Assisted / psychology
  • Terminal Care / ethics
  • Terminal Care / methods
  • Terminal Care / psychology
  • Terminally Ill / psychology