Introducing the Netherlands: euthanasia

International student organization I*ESN and Academic Forum organized a lecture on the regulation of euthanasia last Tuesday. Maurice Adams, professor of Law at Tilburg University, spoke about the practice of regulating euthanasia in the Netherlands and made his public think about the subject by engaging them in a discussion.

Lots of people came to the Blackbox for this lecture in a series of ‘introducing the Netherlands’. Not only internationals, but Dutch people too, gathered at the university theater in the Esplanade building.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries that actually regulates euthanasia, along with Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada. That makes this topic interesting, because why would a country choose to regulate euthanasia and why not? These are questions speaker Maurice Adams made his audience think about. Adams has acted as one of the chairs in a Dutch assessment committee on the practice of regulating euthanasia.

During the lecture, Adams told the students about the definition of euthanasia and what the criteria set to regulate euthanasia in the Netherlands are. One of the conditions of legal euthanasia under the Dutch law, for example, is that the patient’s suffering is unbearable, and there is no prospect of improvement.

Adams not only introduced the attendees to the subject, he also discussed the topic with them, starting by asking what the definition of euthanasia is. The audience was rather reserved to answer this first question – only the ‘overly motivated student’ raised his hand. However, as Adams started to include the audience more, they became less shy. Why would a country regulate euthanasia? “Maybe to fulfill someone’s wish”, a student says. “It’s a healthier form of ending life than suicide”, someone else thinks. Adams himself thinks the Netherlands regulates euthanasia out of pragmatism. “Many colleagues from abroad think the Netherlands is a liberal country. And of course there are liberal-minded reasons behind this regulation. But I think more than anything else the Dutch are very pragmatic: you should regulate euthanasia because it happens anyway.” The same goes for prostitution, abortion and soft drugs, according to Adams. Rather, the discussion serves to rethink your own arguments and perhaps convince others. That’s why Adams counter-argues every argument given.

A few minutes later than planned, Adams finishes his story. With this lecture he gave the audience new knowledge and insights on the subject. It was especially interesting for the international students who come from countries where euthanasia is considered illegal.

Earlier this year, professor Bijsterveld gave a lecture about the history of Brabant. In the following months more ‘introducing the Netherlands’-lectures will take place in the Blackbox. Keep an eye on Tilburg University’s events calendar for the next lecture.


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