Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews Film

Letting Him Down: making the euthanasia decision easier

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 07 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:556
  1. Tony Sheldon, freelance journalist (
  1. Utrecht, Netherlands

    The man, Thijs, lies dead. His widow, Ankie, and his general practitioner, Freek, sit nearby, shocked. “That was terrible…the suffering…you would not wish that on anybody,” says Ankie. Freek replies: “Naturally…terrible.” Then the grieving widow blurts out: “Couldn't you have prevented that? You knew he never wanted that. He gave you the form years ago.”

    Laten Stikken, which means “to let suffocate” but has been given the looser translation of Letting Him Down, is a film made by the Dutch Society for a Voluntary Ending of Life. It is aimed at helping GPs and patients break the silence surrounding euthanasia—a silence that the society believes is denying due consideration of patients' legitimate requests. Even though the Netherlands has agreed a legal framework for permitting voluntary euthanasia, thus achieving “quality” in practice, this most difficult decision for doctors remains a complex and lonely one.

    Last year the society published Euthanasia: A Different View of Practice, which was based on a sample of 14 accounts from surviving relatives and was aimed at raising concerns from the patients' viewpoint. In the ensuing debate the society's director and a former GP, Rob Jonquière, argued that each year hundreds of doctors delayed euthanasia until it was too late, used morphine instead …

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