Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (1):e6-e6 (2005)

Guy Widdershoven
VU University Amsterdam
In 2002 the Netherlands and Belgium both adopted a law on euthanasia. In the Netherlands the law was a codification of a longstanding practice of condoning euthanasia. In Belgium it was a political novelty, without extended prior legal or medical discussion. The developments in the Netherlands and in Belgium will certainly give rise to debates in other countries. The Dutch example has already elicited international discussion. The Belgian policy is interesting because it shows that legalisation of euthanasia can be enacted quite quickly in a country that has no longstanding tradition in this area. John Keown’s book is therefore timely. He has taken part in the debate on euthanasia for a decade and combines an analytic style with a thorough knowledge of the literature on euthanasia. Moreover, he takes a firm stand in the debate. The subtitle of the current book clearly shows Keown’s position. As a critique of legislation of euthanasia, his book is a challenge to the developments in the Netherlands and Belgium.In the first part of the book, Keown tries to clear away common confusions and misunderstandings in the debate by developing clear definitions. Euthanasia is defined as an intentional termination of life. Keown distinguishes between active euthanasia and termination of treatment with the intention to terminate life, or passive euthanasia . Euthanasia is either at the patient’s request, that is voluntary euthanasia , or without the patient’s request, that is non-voluntary euthanasia . Keown distinguishes between euthanasia and medical interventions that foresee the shortening of the patient’s life, but do not primarily aim to bring this about, with reference to the intention of the physician. According to Keown, intentions and foresights are different states of mind, which are morally distinct. …
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DOI 10.1136/jme.2002.002469
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