Abstract The aim of this article is to use data from Belgium to analyse distinctions between palliative sedation and euthanasia. There is a need to reduce confusion and improve communication related to patient management at the end of life specifically regarding the rapidly expanding area of patient care that incorporates a spectrum of nuanced yet overlapping terms such as palliative care, sedation, palliative sedation, continued sedation, continued sedation until death, terminal sedation, voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia. Some physicians and nurses mistakenly think that relieving suffering at the end of life by heavily sedating patients is a form of euthanasia, when indeed it is merely responding to the ordinary and proportionate needs of the patient. Concerns are raised about abuse in the form of deliberate involuntary euthanasia, obfuscation and disregard for the processes sustaining the management of refractory suffering at the end of life. Some suggestions designed to improve patient management and prevent potential abuse are offered.
Abstract This article aims to trace back some of the theoretical foundations of medical ethics that stem from the philosophies of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. The four philosophers had in mind rational and autonomous human beings who are able to decide their destiny, who pave for themselves the path for their own happiness. It is argued that their philosophies have influenced the field of medical ethics as they crafted some very important principles of the field. I discuss the concept of autonomy according to Kant and JS Mill, Kant’s concepts of dignity, benevolence and beneficence, Mill’s Harm Principle (nonmaleficence), the concept of justice according to Aristotle, Mill and Rawls, and Aristotle’s concept of responsibility..
Raphael Cohen-Almagor, David Albert Jones, Chris Gastmans, Calum Mackellar
Abstract In Belgium and in The Netherlands, a debate is developing about people who express a desire to end their lives although they do not suffer from an incurable, life-threatening disease. In 2000, a court in Haarlem in The Netherlands considered the case of 86-year-old Edward Brongersma who had expressed his wish to die to his general practitioner, Dr Philip Sutorius, claiming that death had ‘forgotten’ him, his friends and relatives were dead, and he experienced ‘a pointless and empty existence’. After repeated requests, Dr Sutorius euthanized his insisting patient and was then put on trial. The public prosecution recognized that Dr Sutorius fulfilled all the legal criteria but one: ‘hopeless and unbearable suffering.’ Therefore, the patient’s request should have been refused. The court did not discipline Dr Sutorius, saying that the patient was obsessed with his ‘physical decline’ and ‘hopeless existence’ and therefore was suffering ‘hopelessly and unbearably’. A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Medical Association reacted to the court judgment by saying that the definition of ‘unbearable suffering’ had been stretched too far and that ‘what is new is that it goes beyond physical or psychiatric illness to include social decline’. The then Justice Minister Benk Korthals said that being ‘tired of life’ is not sufficient reason for euthanasia. Since then, the debate as to whether physicians should comply with euthanasia requests of people who are ‘tired of life’ has been widened and many people in Belgium and in The Netherlands are calling for the law to be expanded in order to include similar patients.
The methodology of this research is based on a critical review of the literature supplemented by communications with leading scholars and practitioners. First, concerns are raised about euthanizing people who say that they are ‘tired of life’. Some suggestions designed to improve the situation are offered. The Belgian legislators and medical establishment are invited to reflect and ponder so as to prevent potential abuse.
Cohen-Almagor R, Jones DA, Gastmans C, Mackellar C. Euthanizing People Who Are ‘Tired of Life’ in Belgium. In: Jones DA, Gastmans C, MacKellar C, editors. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium. 2017;188-201. Available from: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3052105
Abstract This paper is aimed to suggest an improved set of guidelines for physician-assisted suicide. Thus it is very practical, based on 25 years of research in eight countries and it does not expand on the underpinning theoretical basis for the guidelines. I have been an advocate of physician-assisted suicide and explained the reasoning elsewhere, primarily in The Right to Die with Dignity and Euthanasia in the Netherlands. I support the idea that patients should be able to decide the time of their death with the help and support of the medical profession. People have human dignity. At the end of their lives, the medical profession should respect their wishes and help them to the best of their abilities. By ‘dignity’ it is meant worthiness, merit. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect”. Kant explained that human beings are end in themselves and that for something to be an end in itself, “it doesn’t have mere relative value (a price) but has intrinsic value (i.e. dignity)”. He further elucidated that autonomy is the basis for the dignity of human nature and of every rational nature. Kant calls dignity an unconditional and incomparable worth that admits of no equivalent. All rational creatures have it, by virtue of their reason, and dignity constrains the ways in which we can legitimately interact. In a similar fashion, Dworkin asserted that individuals have a right to dignity because they are human. I argue that dignity is both objective and subjective concept. It is socially constructed and made up of values and feelings that one feels about oneself, about one’s self-worth and respect. It is further argued that legislation of physician-assisted suicide is a matter of moral necessity and political expediency.
Abstract The aim of this paper is to show the inherent contradiction in the Belgian euthanasia practice. While stressing patient’s autonomy, medical professionals exhibit paternalism in deciding the patient’s fate. First, background information is provided. Then the 2014 Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine Council Statement Paper will be considered. Concerns are voiced about euthanizing people who fail to find meaning in their lives, including those who underwent unsuccessful sex-change operation and blind people, euthanizing patients who did not give their consent, and euthanizing people with dementia. Finally, some suggestions designed to improve the situation are offered.
Abstract The article opens with the hypothesis that the default position that should guide healthcare providers when treating patients at the end-of-life is that patients opt for life. In the absence of an explicit request to die, we may assume that patients wish to continue living. Thus, the role of the medical profession is to provide patients with the best possible conditions for continued living. The article makes a case for physician-assisted suicide legislation. It examines the ‘quality-of-life’ argument, and the issue of the patient’s autonomy and competence. It is argued that (1) quality-of-life is a subjective concept. Only the patient can conclude for herself that her quality-of-life is so low to warrant ending it, and that (2) only competent patients may request ending their lives. Patients’ lives should not be actively terminated by the medical team without the explicit consent of patients. The article then probes the role of physicians at the end-of-life, arguing that medicine should strive to cater to the wishes of all patients, not only the majority of them. Physicians should not turn their backs to justified requests by their patients. Physicians are best equipped to come to the help of patients at all stages of their illness, including their end-of-life. At the same time, in ending life, the final control mechanism should be with the patient. Thus, physician-assisted suicide is preferred to euthanasia in order to lower the possibility of abuse and of ending the lives of patients without their consent and against their wishes. As matters of life and death are grave, they should be taken with utmost seriousness, requiring the instalment of ample checks against abuse and facilitating mechanisms designed to serve the patient’s best interests. The article concludes with 19 careful and detailed guidelines for physician-assisted suicide. These are necessary measures designed to ensure that the best interests of the patients are served as they wished.
Abstract Some background information about the context of euthanasia in Belgium is presented, and Belgian law on euthanasia and concerns about the law are discussed. Suggestions as to how to improve the Belgian law and practice of euthanasia are made, and Belgian legislators and medical establishment are urged to reflect and ponder so as to prevent potential abuse.
Abstract The essay opens with some background information about the context of euthanasia in Belgium. It proceeds by discussing the Belgian law on euthanasia and concerns about the law, its interpretations and implementation. Finally, the major developments and controversies since the law came into effect are discussed. Suggestions as to how to improve the Belgian law and circumscribe the practice of euthanasia are made, urging Belgian legislators and the medical establishment to reflect and study so as to prevent potential abuse of vulnerable patients.
The article’s methodology is based on critical review of the literature supplemented by interviews I conducted in Belgium with leading scholars and practitioners in February 2003 and February 2005. The interviews were conducted in English, usually in the interviewees’ offices. The interviews were semi-structured. I began with a list of twenty-four questions but did not insist on answers to all of them if I saw that the interviewee preferred to speak about subjects that were not included in the original questionnaire. The length of interviews varied from one to two and a half hours. After completing the first draft I sent the manuscript to my interviewees as well as to some leading experts for critical review and comments. The comments received were integrated into this final version of the essay. In 2008, while writing the final draft, I approached my interviewees and some other well-known experts and invited their comments and updates. Responses received by mid-January 2009 were integrated into the article.
Abstract The aim of this paper is to outline the legal framework of euthanasia in the Netherlands and to analyze the leading court cases involving adults. I will first explain the legal ambiguity that existed in the Netherlands until the enacting of the euthanasia law on April 10, 2001 which is supposed to come into effect in early 2002 and then discuss how did the courts treat cases of mercy killings.