BMC Medical Ethics 20 (1):23 (2019)

Family members do not have an official position in the practice of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in the Netherlands according to statutory regulations and related guidelines. However, recent empirical findings on the influence of family members on EAS decision-making raise practical and ethical questions. Therefore, the aim of this review is to explore how family members are involved in the Dutch practice of EAS according to empirical research, and to map out themes that could serve as a starting point for further empirical and ethical inquiry. A systematic mixed studies review was performed. The databases Pubmed, Embase, PsycInfo, and Emcare were searched to identify empirical studies describing any aspect of the involvement of family members before, during and after EAS in the Netherlands from 1980 till 2018. Thematic analysis was chosen as method to synthesize the quantitative and qualitative studies. Sixty-six studies were identified. Only 14 studies had family members themselves as study participants. Four themes emerged from the thematic analysis. 1) Family-related reasons to request EAS. 2) Roles and responsibilities of family members during EAS decision-making and performance. 3) Families’ experiences and grief after EAS. 4) Family and ‘the good euthanasia death’ according to Dutch physicians. Family members seem to be active participants in EAS decision-making, which goes hand in hand with ambivalent feelings and experiences. Considerations about family members and the social context appear to be very important for patients and physicians when they request or grant a request for EAS. Although further empirical research is needed to assess the depth and generalizability of the results, this review provides a new perspective on EAS decision-making and challenges the Dutch ethical-legal framework of EAS. Euthanasia decision-making is typically framed in the patient-physician dyad, while a patient-physician-family triad seems more appropriate to describe what happens in clinical practice. This perspective raises questions about the interpretation of autonomy, the origins of suffering underlying requests for EAS, and the responsibilities of physicians during EAS decision-making.
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DOI 10.1186/s12910-019-0361-2
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References found in this work BETA

Is There a Duty to Die?John Hardwig - 1997 - Hastings Center Report 27 (2):34-42.
What About the Family?John Hardwig - 1990 - Hastings Center Report 20 (2):5.
What About the Family?John Hardwig - 1990 - Hastings Center Report 20 (2):5-10.

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Ethical Issues in Family Medicine.Ronald J. Christie - 1986 - New York: Oxford University Press.


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