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A protocol for consultation of another physician in cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide
  1. Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen,
  2. Gerrit van der Wal
  1. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


    Objective—Consultation of another physician is an important method of review of the practice of euthanasia. For the project “support and consultation in euthanasia in Amsterdam” which is aimed at professionalising consultation, a protocol for consultation was developed to support the general practitioners who were going to work as consultants and to ensure uniformity.

    Participants—Ten experts (including general practitioners who were experienced in euthanasia and consultation, a psychiatrist, a social geriatrician, a professor in health law and a public prosecutor) and the general practitioners who were going to use the protocol.

    Evidence—There is limited literature on consultation: discursive articles and empirical studies describing the practice of euthanasia.

    Consensus—An initial draft on the basis of the literature was commented on by the experts and general practitioners in two rounds. Finally, the protocol was amended after it had been used during the training of consultants.

    Conclusions—The protocol differentiates between steps that are necessary in a consultation and steps that are recommended. Guidelines about four important aspects of consultation were given: independence, expertise, tasks and judgment of the consultant. In 97% of 109 consultations in which the protocol was used the consultant considered the protocol to be useful to a greater or lesser extent. Although this protocol was developed locally, it also employs universal principles. Therefore it can be of use in the development of consultation elsewhere.

    • Euthanasia
    • assisted suicide
    • consultation
    • quality assurance
    • protocol

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    • Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen, PhD, is Senior Researcher in the Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine and Department of Social Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Gerrit van der Wal, MD, PhD, is Professor of Social Medicine at the institute.