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Ann Med. 1999 Dec;31(6):364-71.

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

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  • 1Department of Gynaecology, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In the Netherlands there are about 9700 explicit requests for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (EAS) each year, of which approximately 3600 are granted. Other countries have criticized the Dutch policy concerning EAS. It has been suggested that palliative care in the Netherlands is not adequate and that euthanasia is often requested by patients with depression. In addition, this criticism is partly based on the firm stance that 'human life has an absolute value and a human being has under no circumstances the right of self-determination over his or her own life'. Many aspects of EAS are currently the focus of attention in the literature. In this review the following aspects of EAS are discussed: ethics, judicial questions, the relationship between depression and euthanasia, and the impact of EAS on members of the family. Also, the current situation concerning EAS in the Netherlands is summarized and described. Despite the fact that EAS have been widely discussed in the literature, the association between depression and the number of requests for EAS remains to be discovered. It is also not yet known what the effects of EAS are on members of the family, and whether unnatural death causes a higher incidence of complicated grief.

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