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Advance euthanasia directives: a controversial case and its ethical implications

Abstract

Authorising euthanasia and assisted suicide with advance euthanasia directives (AEDs) is permitted, yet debated, in the Netherlands. We focus on a recent controversial case in which a Dutch woman with Alzheimer’s disease was euthanised based on her AED. A Dutch euthanasia review committee found that the physician performing the euthanasia failed to follow due care requirements for euthanasia and assisted suicide. This case is notable because it is the first case to trigger a criminal investigation since the 2002 Dutch euthanasia law was enacted. Thus far, only brief descriptions of the case have been reported in English language journals and media. We provide a detailed description of the case, review the main challenges of preparing and applying AEDs for persons with dementia and briefly assess the adequacy of the current oversight system governing AEDs.

  • capacity
  • dementia
  • euthanasia
  • living wills/advance directives

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