Prof. Cees Hertogh and Dr. Marike de Boer obtained a €250.000 ZonMw Grant for research into euthanasia of incompetent people with dementia and an advance euthanasia directive

Marike de Boer Marike de Boer

Prof. dr. Cees Hertogh and projectleader Marike de Boer (researcher UNO-VUmc, department of general practice and elderly care medicine)

have received €250.000 ZonMw Grant. The title of the project is: Euthanasia in patients with dementia and an advance euthanasia directive: towards practical guidance. The projectteam consists of a multidisciplinary team of researchers, including Prof. dr. M. Buijsen, Mr. dr. B.J.M. Frederiks, Prof. dr. A. van der Heide,  Prof. dr. C.J.W. Leget, Dr. M. Smalbrugge, and Dr. E.M. Sizoo. The project involves a so-called Aioto project (combining the specialist medical training to become an Elderly Care Physician and a PhD in a 6-year period).

Cees Hertogh Cees Hertogh

The overarching goal of this project is to develop a research based guideline for Elderly Care Physicians (ECPs) for a careful and responsible handling of Advance Euthanasia Directives (AEDs) in dementia cases.

Since the introduction of the euthanasia law in 2002 physicians have struggled how to cope with AEDs of people with severe dementia.  Two cases recently published by the Euthanasia Review Committees led to criticism and opposition among physicians. Still, the majority of physicians is hesitant in granting euthanasia requests of incompetent people with dementia, with whom meaningful communication is no longer possible.  At the same time elderly care physicians and people with dementia report feelings of insecurity and pressure and they express a need for guidance and normative support in handling AEDs of people with dementia.

To provide maximum insight in this issue, this research consists of a mixed method study, encompassing a survey among ECPs, qualitative interviews among physicians and relatives of people with dementia, a review of the legal and ethical literature followed by interviews with ethicists and legal experts, and a Delphi study with a panel of ECPs, ethicists and legal experts.