publication . Article . 2003

After the Slippery Slope: Dutch Experiences on Regulating Active Euthanasia

Boer, Th.A.;
Open Access English
  • Published: 01 Jan 2003
  • Country: Netherlands
“When a country legalizes active euthanasia, it puts itself on a slippery slope from where it may well go further downward.” If true, this is a forceful argument in the battle of those who try to prevent euthanasia from becoming legal. The force of any slippery-slope argument, however, is by definition limited by its reference to future developments which cannot empirically be sustained. Experience in the Netherlands—where a law regulating active euthanasia was accepted in April 2001—may shed light on the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the slippery slope argument in the context of the euthanasia debate. This paper consists of three parts. First, it clari...
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21. See notes three and nine.

22. Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance: “Euthanasia” in Germany 1900-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Euthanasia has been debated intensively in the Netherlands ever since J. H. van den Berg wrote his much disputed book, Medical Power and Medical Ethics. J. H. van den Berg, Medische macht en medische ethiek (Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1969). In this impressively illustrated book, psychiatrist and philosopher van den Berg strongly criticizes the way in which medical doctors use their power to keep alive forms of human life which otherwise would have died long before. Churches of all denominations have written reports since the beginning of the 1970s, pleading for limited acceptance of euthanasia as a last resort. The first cases of euthanasia were openly discussed in the mid-seventies; the first courtcases were held in the beginning of the 1980s, in which doctors were convicted but not punished. This jurisdiction was subsequently followed by legislation in two steps.

23. A survey planned to be published in mid-2003 will be the first reliable source to shed light on whether the figures have stabilized, as some assume, or whether they have continued their way up.

24. NRC Handelsblad, April 14, 2001.

25. James Kennedy, Een weloverwogen dood: Euthanasie in Nederland (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2002), 88ff.

26. Relevant, Quarterly of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Vrijwillige Euthanasie, November 1997. Margriet Oostveen, “Spijt: Voorvechters van euthanasie bezinnen zich,” NRC Handelsblad, November 10, 2001.

27. Ibid.

28. As mentioned, the number of reported euthanasia cases has gone down in the past years, despite a procedure which was meant to encourage doctors to be frank and less afraid to report a case.

29. Herbert Hendin, “Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: the Dutch Experience,” 374.

30. I.e., when loved ones are no longer recognized and when a dementia would lead to incontinence.

31. NRC Handelsblad, April 14, 2001.

32. Bert Chabot, Zelf beschikt (Alphen aan den Rijn: Balans, 1994), 53; Herbert Hendin, “Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: the Dutch Experience,” 378ff.

33. Ibid., 379.

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