Author(s): Gerrit K Kimsma
Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide remain controversial in the United States of America, in the Netherlands, and in other western countries. Debates involve highly abstract and technical problems, situated at the intersection of ethics, law, and medicine; nevertheless, they have a very public character. The issues are broadly discussed in the media and elsewhere. The key concepts and definitions of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide differ between countries and their legal and medical traditions, fueling confusion and misunderstanding. For example, American debates cite the practice of ending lives under medical care in the Netherlands both as an example to follow and as one to refrain from at all costs. Even though the Northern Territories of Australia technically was the first place in the world to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, the Dutch experience continues to draw more attention from Americans. The figures published in Dutch studies are used and abused by Dutch and non-Dutch authors alike. The experiences of physicians and patients are cited to support a climate of death with dignity or to paint a picture of fear of physicians, lack of adequate care and legal permissiveness, resulting in the inability to hold the line between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia.