Evaluation of the practice, notification and review of euthanasia
04 / 2001 - 09 / 2005
[OBJECTIVES:] In 1990/1991 and in 1995/1996 research was carried out to investigate the practice of euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions in the Netherlands. The second study also evaluated the notification procedure for euthanasia, and on the basis of the results of this study the notification procedure was amended. Since November 1998, notification takes place through regional review committees in which a lawyer, a physician and an ethicist participate. The main research question to be addressed in the present study is whether this notification procedure meets its goals (disclosure, promoting adherence to the requirements for prudent practice, and uniformity in notification and examination throughout the country). In order to answer this question it is necessary to investigate the policies of physicians in the Netherlands with regard to end-of-life decisions, the experiences and attitudes of the physicians and the general public concerning end-of-life decisions, the assessment and notification of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, the actual procedures of the notification procedure, and any possible trends in all these issues over the past decade. [METHODS:] Four studies will be conducted: 1) a death certificate study: questionnaires will be mailed to the physicians who attended approximately 6,000 deaths identified from death certificates; 2) an interview study: 410 physicians (general practitioners, nursing home physicians and clinical specialists) will be interviewed; 3) a notified cases study: this study consists of 3 sub-studies. Firstly, interviews will be held with 225 physicians who reported a case of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Secondly, interviews will be held with relatives of the patients involved in approximately 100 of these cases. Thirdly, interviews will be held with members of the regional review committees and the minutes of their meetings will be examined; 4) a general public study: a written questionnaire will be mailed to a representative sample of 1,500 adults in the Netherlands.