Andries PostmaBMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39111.520486.FA (Published 08 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:320
- Tony Sheldon
In 1971 Andries Postma was an unknown Dutch general practitioner working in the quiet village of Noordwolde in rural Friesland. But his support for his wife, also a general practitioner, in what they were convinced was the mercy killing of her mother ensured their name a place in medical history.
Postma and his wife neither sought publicity nor set out to challenge Dutch law banning euthanasia. Still the Postma case was reported around the world and its shock waves continue to shape Dutch medical practice today.
As the first euthanasia test case, it broke social taboos in a country with strong Christian traditions. It also reflected a new wave of concern among many young medical professionals about the limits of medical care and patients' self determination.
Many in Dutch society, including the Postmas' fellow villagers in Noordwolde, shared their belief that they were morally in the right, even though his wife was technically guilty of murder.
Their actions were the spark that launched the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and 20 years later resulted in a law protecting doctors carrying out euthanasia within legally defined boundaries.