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May 10, 1995

Changes in Dutch Opinions on Active Euthanasia, 1966 Through 1991

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam (Drs van der Maas, Pijnenborg, and van Delden), and Center for Bioethics and Health Law, Utrecht University (Dr van Delden), Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

JAMA. 1995;273(18):1411-1414. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520420023013

THE NETHERLANDS appears to have a worldwide reputation for tolerant policies on controversial issues such as abortion, drug abuse, and euthanasia. In a comparative survey of 15 countries, including the United States and Canada, the Dutch had by far the most permissive orientation.1 "Tolerant" in this context has positive connotations for some and negative for others, who interpret this tolerance as a loss of fundamental values that inevitably leads to a disintegration of society.

Policies must have at least some basis in public opinion and in opinions of the relevant professional groups, especially in an extremely value-laden topic such as active euthanasia. Euthanasia involves such values as the sanctity of life and human self-determination, as well as medical-professional ethics that may be seen as more or less derived from such values. In this article, we examine the development of public opinion on the issue of active euthanasia and the

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