Marianne C Snijdewind, Dick L Willems, Luc Deliens, Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Kenneth Chambaere
Importance: Right to Die NL, an organization in the Netherlands that advocates for the option of euthanasia, founded the End-of-Life Clinic in 2012 to provide euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide for patients who meet all legal requirements but whose regular physicians rejected their request. Many patients whose requests are rejected have less common situations, such as a psychiatric or psychological condition, dementia, or being tired of living.
Objective: To study outcomes of requests for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide received by the clinic and factors associated with granting or rejecting requests.
Design: Analysis of application forms and registration files from March 1, 2012, to March 1, 2013, the clinic’s first year of operation, for 645 patients who applied to the clinic with a request for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide and whose cases were concluded during the study period. Main Outcomes and
Measures: A request could be granted, rejected, or withdrawn or the patient could have died before a final decision was reached. We analyzed bivariate and multivariate associations with medical conditions, type of suffering, and sociodemographic variables.
Results: Of the 645 requests made by patients, 162 requests (25.1%) were granted, 300 requests (46.5%) were refused, 124 patients (19.2%) died before the request could be assessed, and 59 patients (9.1%) withdrew their requests. Patients with a somatic condition (113 of 344 [32.8%]) or with cognitive decline (21 of 56 [37.5%]) had the highest percentage of granted requests. Patients with a psychological condition had the smallest percentage of granted requests. Six (5.0%) of 121 requests from patients with a psychological condition were granted, as were 11 (27.5%) of 40 requests from patients who were tired of living.
Conclusions and Relevance: Physicians in the Netherlands have more reservations about less common reasons that patients request euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, such as psychological conditions and being tired of living, than the medical staff working for the End-of-Life Clinic. The physicians and nurses employed by the clinic, however, often confirmed the assessment of the physician who previously cared for the patient; they rejected nearly half of the requests for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, possibly because the legal due care criteria had not been met.
Snijdewind MC, Willems DL, Deliens L, Onwuteaka-Philipsen BD, Chambaere K. A study of the first year of the end-of-life clinic for physician-assisted dying in the Netherlands. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015 Oct;175(10):1633-1640.