The Netherlands

  • Hans van der Spoel


When doctors in the Netherlands, like probably all over the world, graduate from medical school, they take an oath—the Hippocratic Oath. They vow that they will treat every patient who seeks their help, respect the patient, act in his or her best interests, and first of all do no harm. This situation is according to our laws and confirmed in numerous court decisions. This attitude toward treatment also implies that medically futile treatment should be avoided, because this is not in the patient’s best interest. Doctors must withhold inappropriate treatment and stop treatment that is no longer appropriate. This was underscored in the following two cases, taken to court in the Netherlands:

A premature newborn with congenital cerebral, cardiac, and digestive tract defects was expected to survive for only a short period. Shortly after birth, before further investigations could be done, the infant was intubated and ventilated. Oneof the defects was esophageal atresia. The doctors did not consider it appropriate to operate for this, because oprating would only prolong the suffering of this infant, who was expected to die within a couple of weeks. The parents, however, wanted everything done. Many discussions between doctors and parents folliwed, in which the medical side was explained over and over. The parents persisted in their view, and ultimately they went to court to force the surgeons to operate.


Intensive Care Unit Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Brain Damage Esophageal Atresia Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

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  • Hans van der Spoel

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