[A comparative study of the euthanasia laws of Belgium and the Netherlands].
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Revue médicale de Liège, Volume 58, Issue 7-8, p.485-92 (2003)
Keywords:Belgium, Euthanasia, Humans, Mandatory Reporting, Netherlands, Physician's Role
Recently, laws on euthanasia have been adopted in the Netherlands and Belgium. In both countries the legality of euthanasia is conditioned by adherence to strict conditions and by confirmation after a notification procedure. Although both laws are rather similar, the Belgian law is more fastidious on the requirements of prudent practice. The Belgian law does and the Dutch law does not distinguish between terminal conditions and non-terminal or slowly evolutive chronic conditions. In Belgium, the law only applies to adults, whereas in the Netherlands, minors over 12 years of age may under certain conditions receive euthanasia. However, the Belgian National Medical Disciplinary Board has recently mitigated differences by drafting guidelines which reflect a broad interpretation of the law. A major difference between the two countries is that in the Dutch society the norm setting on euthanasia developed more through jurisprudence and endorsement by the Medical Association than through legislation. We anticipate that the implementation of the new law and the notification procedure may be more difficult in Belgium than in the Netherlands. In order to promote the quality of the euthanasia practice, the euthanasia notification procedure in the Netherlands is followed by systematic feedback to the physicians. The strict anonymity of the Belgian notification procedure will be broken only when the control commission finds some anomaly or deficiency in the declaration. Therefore, unless the Evaluation and Control Commission makes ample use of its prerogative to contact the physician, the Belgian physicians may be less supported by the notification procedure to improve their knowledge and skills in euthanasia.