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Autonomy, Human Dignity, and the Right to Healthcare: A Dutch Perspective


Dutch medical ethics policy is renowned for being highly liberal, due largely to the Dutch law on euthanasia. The Netherlands is one of the very few countries in which euthanasia performed by physicians and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has been legalized. Acts of euthanasia and PAS go unpunished, provided certain conditions are fulfilled.

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1. Kamerstukken II [Parliamentary Proceedings]. 2007/08, 31 036, nr. 2.

2. Speech by the Dutch State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, held on 1 November 2006, available at (last accessed 15 Jan 2009).

3. Leenen HJJ. Handboek gezondheidsrecht. Deel 1. Rechten van de mens in de gezondheidszorg [Textbook on Healthlaw. Part 1, Human rights in healthcare], 3rd ed. Alphen a/d Rijn: Samsom; 1994:3.

4. See note 3, Leenen 1994:31–2.

5. Sluyters B. Geknipt verband. Deventer: Kluwer; 1985:16–22; Buijsen MAJM. Autonomie in het gezondheidsrecht [Autonomy in healthlaw]. Ars Aequi 2004;6:425–9.

6. Bussemaker M. Betwiste zelfstandigheid. Individualisering, sekse en verzorgingsstaat [Autonomy Disputed. Individualization, gender, and the welfare state]. Amsterdam: SUA; 1993:28–9.

7. See, for instance, Council of Europe, Protection of the human rights and dignity of the terminally ill and dying. Report to the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly 21 May 1999 (Doc. 8421), para. 2–5.

8. CESCR (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). General Comment No. 14. In: Note by the Secretariat, Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies; 2004. UN Doc HRI/GEN/1/Rev.7, para. 33.

9. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 Dec 1966, entered into force 3 Jan 1976) 993 UNTS 3 (ICESCR).

10. See note 8, CESCR 2004:para. 34, 43.

11. See note 7, Council of Europe 1999:para. 19.

12. See note 7, Council of Europe 1999:para. 19.

13. KNMG. Artsen en kindermishandeling. Meldcode en stappenplan [Physicians and Child Abuse. Reporting procedure]. Utrecht: KNMG; 2008.

14. Coördinatiegroep Orgaandonatie. Masterplan orgaandonatie [Master Plan Organ Donation]. De vrijblijvendheid voorbij. The Hague: Ministerie van VWS; 2008.

15. Nys H. European biolaw in the making: The example of the rules governing the removal of organs from deceased persons in the EU member states. In: Gastmans C, Dierickx K, Nys H, Schotsmans P, eds. New Pathways for European Bioethics. Antwerpen/Oxford: Intersentia; 2007:176.

16. Akveld JEM, Buijsen MAJM. Een juridische verkenning inzake alternatieve beslissystemenrondom orgaandonatie en inzake financiële incentives. The Hague: Ministerie van VWS; 2008.

17. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (signed April 4, 1997, entered into force December 1, 1999) ETS 164. See also Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine concerning Transplantation of Organs and Tissues of Human Origin (signed January 24, 2002, entered into force May 1, 2006) ETS 186.

18. Buijsen MAJM. The meaning of “Justice” in health care. Medicine and Law 2008;3:535–546.

19. Buijsen MAJM. Politiek is zelf schuldig aan discriminatie in de zorg. De Volkskrant 2008 20 Nov.

20. See note 1, Kamerstukken II 2007/08, XVI, nr. 126.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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