The medical practice of euthanasia in Belgium and The Netherlands: legal notification, control and evaluation procedures

Health Policy. 2009 May;90(2-3):181-7. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2008.10.003. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Objectives: To describe and compare current legal procedures for notifying, controlling and evaluating (NCE-procedures) euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands, and to discuss the implications for a safe and controllable euthanasia practice.

Methods: We systematically studied and compared official documents relating to the Belgian and the Dutch NCE-procedures for euthanasia.

Results: In both countries, physicians are required to notify their cases to a review Committee, stimulating them to safeguard the quality of their euthanasia practice and to make societal control over the practice of euthanasia possible. However, the procedures in both countries differ. The main differences are that the Dutch notification and control procedures are more elaborate and transparent than the Belgian, and that the Belgian procedures are primarily anonymous, whereas the Dutch are not. Societal evaluation is made in both countries through the Committees' summary reports to Parliament.

Conclusions: Transparent procedures like the Dutch may better facilitate societal control. Informing physicians about the law and the due care requirements for euthanasia, and systematic feedback about their medical actions are both pivotal to achieving efficient societal control and engendering the level of care needed when performing such far-reaching medical acts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Euthanasia / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Euthanasia / statistics & numerical data
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / ethics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Program Evaluation
  • Social Control Policies*
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*