Euthanasia in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands doctors may provide assisted dying if the patient makes a clear and autonomous request and is enduring unbearable and unendurable suffering, if no other reasonable solution is foreseeable, and if the patient realizes the consequences of what they are requesting. A doctor may not decide entirely on his own, but is legally obliged to consult an independent colleague, who Is not familiar with the patient.

The number of patients in the Netherlands that received euthanasia or assisted suicide was established as 5,516 (2015), according to the review committees that receive all records on euthanasia. This is less than 4% of all death in the Netherlands in 2015.

Every case of euthanasia must be reported to these review committees. They check if the criteria stated above are respected. If not, the committees will submit their observations to the justice department and the health inspectorate. The justice department may prosecute the doctor involved and the health inspectorate may take measures against him. Until now neither has seen any reason to do so. The cases in which a doctor failed to act in accordance with the regulations have been very few, only four in 2015.

Most patients whose request for euthanasia or assisted suicide was granted had untreatable cancer. Other diseases mentioned in the review committees’ 2014 report were damage to the nervous system, a multitude of diseases affecting the elderly, and heart and pulmonary failure. A small number were psychiatric patients or had an early stage of dementia.

Since 2012 patients who are denied euthanasia by their own doctor can apply to the Levenseindekliniek. Because doctors tend to say no to the most complicated requests, the Levenseindekliniek is becoming more and more a sort of a refuge for patients with the most complex afflictions.