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Dutch practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide: a glimpse at the edges of the practice
  1. Timothy Quill
  1. Correspondence to Dr Timothy Quill, Palliative Care Division, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA; Timothy_Quill{at}

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Euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) was openly permitted but not technically legal in the Netherlands for decades. In 2002, it was formally legalised through the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Review Procedures Act, subject to two main criteria: (1) the patient had to be capable of making voluntary decisions and (2) the patient had to experience unbearable suffering without prospect of improvement. Within the Netherlands, EAS has wide acceptance, and the public in general seems to favour a liberal interpretation of both of these requirements. Physicians are expected to use ‘their own moral compass’ to decide about personal participation, and it is generally possible and permissible to find a substitute physician if the patient meets the legally required criteria but the physician is not comfortable assisting. Over the years, multiple quantitative and qualitative studies have explored the Dutch practice of EAS,1–3 but relatively little is known about the edges of what counts as meeting these criteria and how acceptable the practice is for physicians who participate. The study by Snijdewind et al gives a glimpse of these boundaries and suggests that at least sometimes the criteria are being stretched and adapted to meet the perceived needs of patients, and some participating physicians are relatively uncomfortable with some of the requests with which they are faced.4 Just how rare or common these ‘edgy’ cases are within the larger practice of EAS in the Netherlands cannot be answered by …

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  • Contributors TQ is the sole author of this paper.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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