Obituaries

Henk Leenen

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7382.226 (Published 25 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:226

Dutch professor of social medicine and health law, patients' rights champion, and euthanasia campaigner

Henk Leenen was both the architect of the Netherlands' euthanasia law and a fighter for patients' self determination. He was not afraid to raise the most controversial questions posed by medical ethics nor to probe the current boundaries of medical practice. Though a lawyer, he shaped both Dutch and European medical practice for the last quarter of a century as old “doctors' duties” became new “patients' rights.”

During the passage of the Netherlands' euthanasia law, which came into effect in April 2002, he clashed with politicians by arguing that the wishes of seriously ill children as young as 12 should be paramount in a request for mercy killing. He argued that, for example, a child with leukaemia that is in and out of hospital best knows when it has had enough. He lost that argument.

Nor …

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