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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Analysis: New law changes little
A nurse tends to an elderly patient
Supporters of the law say it enshrines a person's right to die
By psychologist Martine Cornelisse of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society

There will be little change in practice after the adoption of the law legalising euthanasia, as the new rules codify rules and requirements that have developed over the last 25 years.

It's a paradox, but it might even lengthen the life of patients, instead of shortening it

However, the fact that doctors will now be allowed by law to do this will make them feel much better about it.

Last week, a doctor was still officially a criminal if he helped patients to die.

From tomorrow it will not be a crime, and this will also make it easier for patients - knowing that they can ask a doctor, and that it is allowed.

No increase

However, I do not expect any increase in the number of cases of euthanasia.

Martine Cornelisse
Martine Cornelisse: Improvements in quality of treatment
Maybe more people will talk about it, or ask about it, and doctors will say: "OK, when it gets worse I will help you die - when you cannot stand it any more."

But when a patient knows he can really trust his doctor, and that at a certain moment he will help him die, it sometimes gives people more energy to go on and carry the burden of pain.

It's a paradox, but it might even lengthen the life of patients, instead of shortening it.

One of the advantages of legalisation is that it brings euthanasia out into the open.

This provides a better grip on the situation. You can educate doctors and raise the quality of treatment.

Written requests

One interesting thing about the new law is that it gives a new place to a person's will - a document someone fills out when he is sound of mind.

Dutch Professor, Tom Voute
Dutch doctors: No longer "criminals"
If a person makes a written request to die, the doctor must consider it. The law does not say that he has to honour this request, but he has to study the case seriously.

For example, if someone is hurt in a car accident, and his condition is very bad, and he has asked for euthanasia in his will, his written request may replace an oral request.

This is new. It was never stipulated before that a written request has the same value as a spoken one.

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See also:

10 Apr 01 | Europe
Dutch set to legalise euthanasia
28 Nov 00 | Europe
Dutch MPs legalise mercy killings
28 Nov 00 | Europe
Opposition to Dutch euthanasia
28 Nov 00 | Euthanasia
Euthanasia and the law
01 Jul 99 | Euthanasia
A euthanasia glossary
24 Feb 00 | Health
Euthanasia deaths 'not easy'
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