Doctors and criminal lawyers dealing with Death and Dying: Multidisciplinary and Empirical Perspectives on Medical Decision Making at the End of Life

Developing a multi-disciplinary collaborative in research between our faculty’s/departments (criminal law and public health, respectively) concerning law-based normative concepts for end-of-life decisions, based on detailed empirical knowledge of the (not always clear) practices of doctors. We aim to investigate daily practices of doctors, understand what they do in end-of-life cases in terms of medical care and in terms of law, to better understand, regulate and control end-of-life decision making in health care and (criminal) law. The project meets an urgent need to address public health, ethical and legal issues in end-of-life decision making, e.g. with respect to the roles of health care professionals and other stakeholders, the acceptability of interventions that (may) hasten death, and the potential tension between privacy in the medical domain, protection of life as human right, self-determination of citizens and patients, and the need of public oversight and legal control of end of life decisions and practices. The normative aspects include modalities of substantial law (criteria for decisions), as well as procedural law in the field of public health, disciplinary law and criminal law.

We want to be visible as a group of experts/centre of excellence and knowledge in the national and international debate (in society and amongst experts and national (governments) and international (EU, UN-)policymakers) and create during this project a centre for research and knowledge that will last after finishing the research of this proposal.

Within a period of four years we will organize multidisciplinary discussion meetings, perform observational, medical file, and interview studies in 4 different clinical settings in the Netherlands and one in Belgium (comparable legislation) and in Germany (no legislature permitting assistance in dying); prepare proposals for at least 3 research grants; publish at least 5 research output papers and discussion papers in scientific journals; give presentations to scientific and policy making audiences and produce 2 PhD thesis.

We expect our project to advance an extremely important field of research that has significance for an outcome in life all of us have to deal with:  death and dying. We aim to give EUR/ELS/Erasmus MC a significant and unique position in research and knowledge, based on the unique combined expertise in law and public health.