Requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide of people without (severe) illness

Vera E van den Berg, Margot L Zomers, Ghislaine Jmw van Thiel, Carlo Jw Leget, Johannes Jm van Delden, Els J van Wijngaarden

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Some people request euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) even though they are not (severely) ill. In the Netherlands the presence of sufficient medical ground for the suffering is a strict prerequisite for EAS. The desirability of this 'medical ground'-boundary is currently questioned. Legislation has been proposed to facilitate EAS for older persons with "completed life" or "tiredness of life" in the absence of (severe) illness.

OBJECTIVES: To describe the characteristics and motivations of persons whose requests for EAS in the absence of (severe) illness did not result in EAS and the decision-making process of medical professionals in these types of requests.

METHODS: Analysis of 237 applicant records of the Dutch Euthanasia Expertise Center. We studied both the perspectives of applicants and medical professionals.

FINDINGS: The majority of the applicants were women (73%) aged 75 years and older (79%). Applicants most often indicated physical suffering as element of suffering and reason for the request. Medical professionals indicated in 40% of the cases no or insufficient medical ground for the suffering.

CONCLUSIONS: Physical suffering plays an important role in requests for EAS even for persons who are not (severely) ill. From the presence of physical suffering it does not necessarily follow that for medical professionals there is sufficient medical ground to comply with the 'medical ground'-boundary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-830
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Policy
Volume126
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Assisted suicide
  • Euthanasia requests
  • Older people
  • Suffering
  • The Netherlands

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