Background: Debates over legalisation of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia often warn of a “slippery slope”, predicting abuse of people in vulnerable groups. To assess this concern, the authors examined data from Oregon and the Netherlands, the two principal jurisdictions in which physician-assisted dying is legal and data have been collected over a substantial period.Methods: The data from Oregon comprised all annual and cumulative Department of Human Services reports 1998–2006 and three independent studies; the data from the Netherlands comprised all four (...) government-commissioned nationwide studies of end-of-life decision making and specialised studies. Evidence of any disproportionate impact on 10 groups of potentially vulnerable patients was sought.Results: Rates of assisted dying in Oregon and in the Netherlands showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured , people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations. The only group with a heightened risk was people with AIDS. While extralegal cases were not the focus of this study, none have been uncovered in Oregon; among extralegal cases in the Netherlands, there was no evidence of higher rates in vulnerable groups.Conclusions: Where assisted dying is already legal, there is no current evidence for the claim that legalised PAS or euthanasia will have disproportionate impact on patients in vulnerable groups. Those who received physician-assisted dying in the jurisdictions studied appeared to enjoy comparative social, economic, educational, professional and other privileges. (shrink)
OBJECTIVES: To identify the factors that influence the assessment of reported cases of physician-assisted death by members of the public prosecution. DESIGN/SETTING: At the beginning of 1996, during verbal interviews, 12 short case-descriptions were presented to a representative group of 47 members of the public prosecution in the Netherlands. RESULTS: Assessment varied considerably between respondents. Some respondents made more "lenient" assessments than others. Characteristics of the respondents, such as function, personal-life philosophy and age, were not related to the assessment. Case (...) characteristics, i.e. the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering, strongly influenced the assessment. Of these characteristics, the presence or absence of an explicit request was the most important determinant of the decision whether or not to hold an inquest. CONCLUSIONS: Although the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering each influenced the assessment, each individual assessment was dependent on the assessor. The resulting danger of legal inequality and legal uncertainty, particularly in complicated cases, should be kept to a minimum by the introduction of some form of protocol and consultation in doubtful or boundary cases. The notification procedure already promotes a certain degree of uniformity in the prosecution policy. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Background: Caring for terminally ill patients is a meaningful task, however the patient’s suffering can be a considerable burden and cause of frustration.Objectives: The aim of this study is to describe the experiences of general practitioners in The Netherlands in dealing with a request for euthanasia from a terminally ill patient.Methods: The data, collected through in-depth interviews, were analysed according to the constant comparative method.Results: Having to face a request for euthanasia when attempting to relieve a patient’s suffering was described (...) as a very demanding experience that GPs generally would like to avoid. Nearly half of the GPs strive to avoid euthanasia or physician assisted suicide because it was against their own personal values or because it was emotional burdening to be confronted with this issue. They explained that by being directed on promoting a peaceful dying process, or the quality of end-of-life of a patient by caring and supporting the patient and the relatives it was mainly possible to shorten patient’s suffering without “intentionally hastening a patient’s death on his request”. The other GPs explained that as sometimes the suffering of a patient could not be lessened they were open to consider a patient’s request for euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. They underlined the importance of a careful decision-making process, based on finding a balance between the necessity to shorten the patient’s suffering through euthanasia and their personal values.Conclusion: Dealing with requests for euthanasia is very challenging for GPs, although they feel committed to alleviate a patient’s suffering and to promote a peaceful death. (shrink)
In the Netherlands, in 1995 approximately 9700 people explicitly requested euthanasia or assisted suicide, and EAS was performed approximately 3600 times. The most important reasons for not performing EAS when requested by a patient were that the patient died before EAS was performed, or that the physician refused the request.
BackgroundIn many countries health insurers, employers and especially governments are increasingly using pressure and coercion to enhance healthier lifestyles. For example by ever higher taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, and ever stricter smoke-free policies. Such interventions can enhance healthier behaviour, but when they become too intrusive, an unfree society can emerge. Which lifestyle interventions that use pressure or coercion are justifiable and which are not? We tried to develop an assessment model that can be used for answering this question, (...) on a generally acceptable way, for all sorts of lifestyle interventions.MethodsThe intended assessment model was developed in three phases. In the first phase the model was theoretically developed on the basis of literature study and reasoning. In the second phase the model was empirically tested by assessing two detailed cases from everyday practice using the model. The model was improved again and again. In the third phase the 10th version of the model was developed while writing this article.ResultsAn assessment model for the justification of intrusive lifestyle interventions. It comprises three components: 12 assessment criteria ; an assessment structure with three filters ; a way of assessing.ConclusionsWe have developed an assessment model for the justification of lifestyle interventions that use pressure or coercion to promote health. The correctness, completeness and practicality of the model are likely. Important principles for the justification are the logic and completeness of the underlying argumentation and the proper use of the available scientific information. Parties for and against a particular intervention could use the model to test and strengthen their argumentation and to improve the quality of the intervention. (shrink)
In many countries health insurers, employers and especially governments are increasingly using pressure and coercion to enhance healthier lifestyles. For example by ever higher taxes on cigarettes and alcoholi..