Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)
In Holland - the Netherlands
Physician assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, but must be done
under strict rules.
About 3% of all deaths in the country are reported as involving physician assistance. The
actual number is believed to be higher. According to a statement by Dr.
Keith Wilson of the Ottawa Health Research Institute in 2007, between 6 and 10%
of Dutch patients with advanced cancer choose to die this way.
Public opinion remains very heavily in favor of continuing the present
Some recent developments:
|1993: Euthanasia was theoretically illegal in this country and
remains so today. However, a law was passed in 1993
which prevents doctors from being prosecuted for euthanasia if:
|the patient is in intolerable pain (including emotional pain),|
|the patient has repeatedly and lucidly asked to die,|
|two doctors agree on the procedure, |
|relatives are consulted, and|
|the death is reported.|
|1998: In a 1998 public poll, 92% of Dutch adults supported
access to physician assisted suicide.|
|1999: Physicians had complained that the government guidelines left them in a
legal limbo. On 1999-JUL-12, the Dutch government announced the introduction
of a bill to decriminalize physician assisted suicide. Wijnand Stevens, a
spokesperson for the justice ministry said: "It was agreed that to
decriminalize euthanasia is the logical [next] step of the policy we have
had so far." 2 Assistance in dying would only be permitted
|The patient must be suffering unbearably. However, they need not
be terminally ill.|
|The patient must make a request on a voluntary, well considered and
|The doctor and patient must have had a long-term relationship.|
|There must be no reasonable alternative to relieve the patient's
|The doctor must consult at least one other independent physician.|
|Due medical care must be followed,|
The Voluntary Euthanasia Society (NVVE) and Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG)
welcomed the bill.
|2000: All three
parties of the ruling coalition backed the bill during debate on
opposition came from the Christian Democrats and some small Calvinist
religious parties. A spokesperson for the conservative Protestant State Reformed
Party commented that the Dutch government is "mopping up
the last remaining scraps of Christian morals from the law books."
They control two seats in parliament. Bert Dorenbos, spokesperson for the
pro-life group Cry for Life, said: "You'll never know if
doctors are coming to cure you or kill you." (He was apparently
unaware of the act's provisions that the patient must first make repeated
requests for assistance).|
The bill was passed 104 to 40 in the lower
chamber of parliament. 3 Derek Humphry, founder of the
Hemlock Society in the U.S. said that the absence of an enabling law in
has driven the practice of assisted suicide underground. "It's
going on underground extensively, but we would rather see it above
ground and open and supervised by a team of people...Every day, there
are dozens of cases in North America." Rev. Joaquin Navarro-Valls,
a Vatican spokesperson said that the Dutch bill "violates the
dignity of human beings... and goes against the natural law of
2002: On DEC-24, the highest court in the Netherlands ruled on a case
involving a physician, Philip Sutorius, who had helped former senator,
Edward Brongersma, commit suicide in 1998. Brongersma had suffered from
incontinence, dizziness and immobility. He said he was tired of life. Under Dutch law, a
patient must face a future of intolerable suffering before he can request
mercy killing. The highest court in the Netherlands ruled:
question in this case was whether euthanasia is justified also in
circumstances where a patient is tired of life."
They concluded that
the euthanasia law had not been intended for such situations, unless the
patient is also in intolerable pain.
The Dutch Medical Federation (KNMG)
said there had been a great deal of debate in the Netherlands about cases
in which patients were tired of life, and simply wanted to die. Their
statement read, in part:
"In practice, this is a gray area and in many
cases it its not clear into which category a euthanasia request should be
They concluded that the court's decision had not
clarified that point. 3
2019: Misinformation about the suicide death of Noa Pothoven, 17: She had written a award winning memoir titled "Winning or Learning," about her experience with sexual assault, rape, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anorexis.
At the age of 16, she went to the Levenseinde (end-of-life) clinic to inquire about physician assisted suicide. She was told that she was not eligible under Dutch law.
In late May, she posted a message on Instagram, saying that:
"After years of fighting, the fighting has finished. I have now stopped eating and drinking for a while, and after many conversations and reviews it has been decided that I will be released because my suffering is unbearable. I have not really been alive for so long, I am surviving, and not even that. I am still breathing but I am no longer alive."
She died on JUN-02 in a hospital bed in her family's home.
Her death triggered outrage in the media as people asked why she was allowed to die.
Her parents, the Levenseinde clinic, the Royal Dutch Medical Association and the Dutch health minister all emphasized that she did not die by euthanasia. Her family issued a statement saying:
"Noa had chosen not to eat and drink anymore. We would like to emphasize that this was the cause of her death. She died in our presence last Sunday. We kindly ask everyone to respect our privacy so we as a family can mourn."
However, media outlets generally said that she had been euthanized.
Naomi O'Leary, reporting for Politico Europe was one of the first English-language jouralists to get the facts of Noa's death straight. She tweeted on JUN-05:
"A 17-year-old rape victim was NOT euthanised in the Netherlands.@euronews @Independent @DailyMailUK @dailybeast are all wrong.
It took me about 10 mins to check with the reporter who wrote the original Dutch story.
Noa Pothoven asked for euthanasia and was refused.
Dyck Bosscher, a spokesman for the Dutch Voluntary Termination of Life Association (NVVE), which established the Levenseinde clinic, said:
"There is a lot of misunderstanding about our legislation around euthanasia. The media reports make it seem as if it is easy to get euthanasia in the Netherlands, but it's not the truth."
Eliza Mackintosh, writing for CNN, said:
"Bosscher explained that gaining approval was a complex, lengthy process under the criteria set out by Dutch law. Over the course of multiple interviews, those seeking euthanasia must convince a doctor that their request is voluntary, they are suffering unbearably, have exhausted all alternative options and are capable of understanding the weight of their decision, he said.
And, in cases like Pothoven's, when the patient is living with mental illness, the application is even more difficult, because the burden of proof is so high.
Of the patients who are approved to receive euthanasia by the Levenseinde clinic, only 9% are psychiatric patients. The rest are living with cancer or another disease." 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Anne-Marie Tobin, "Terminal patients favour ending life," The Toronto
Star, 2007-JUN-08, Page L7.
- "Dutch to legalize mercy killing." Associated Press,
- Eliza Mackintosh, "Misinformation swirling around Dutch teenager's death ignites debate over euthanasia,"
CNN, 2019-JUN-08, at: https://www.cnn.com/
Copyright © 1997 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2007-JUN-08
Author: B.A. Robinson