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Journal Article

Citation

Miller DG, Kim SYH. BMJ Open 2017; 7(10): e017628.

Affiliation

Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2017, BMJ Publishing Group)

DOI

10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017628

PMID

29074515

Abstract

OBJECTIVEsTo assess how Dutch regional euthanasia review committees (RTE) apply the euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) due care criteria in cases where the criteria are judged not to have been met ('due care not met' (DCNM)) and to evaluate how the criteria function to set limits in Dutch EAS practice.

DESIGN: A qualitative review using directed content analysis of DCNM cases in the Netherlands from 2012 to 2016 published on the RTE website (https://www.euthanasiecommissie.nl/) as of 31 January 2017.

RESULTS: Of 33 DCNM cases identified (occurring 2012-2016), 32 cases (97%) were published online and included in the analysis. 22 cases (69%) violated only procedural criteria, relating to improper medication administration or inadequate physician consultation. 10 cases (31%) failed to meet substantive criteria, with the most common violation involving the no reasonable alternative (to EAS) criterion (seven cases). Most substantive cases involved controversial elements, such as EAS for psychiatric disorders or 'tired of life', in incapacitated patients or by physicians from advocacy organisations. Even in substantive criteria cases, the RTE's focus was procedural. The cases were more about unorthodox, unprofessional or overconfident physician behaviours and not whether patients should have received EAS. However, in some cases, physicians knowingly pushed the limits of EAS law. Physicians from euthanasia advocacy organisations were over-represented in substantive criteria cases. Trained EAS consultants tended to agree with or facilitate EAS in DCNM cases. Physicians and families had difficulty applying ambiguous advance directives of incapacitated patients.

CONCLUSION: As a retrospective review of physician self-reported data, the Dutch RTEs do not focus on whether patients should have received EAS, but instead primarily gauge whether doctors conducted EAS in a thorough, professional manner. To what extent this constitutes enforcement of strict safeguards, especially when cases contain controversial features, is not clear.

© Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2017. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted.


Language: en

Keywords

assisted suicide; euthanasia; health policy; netherlands; palliative care; review committees

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