Research Excellence Initiatives

About the project

“Doctor and lawyers dealing with death and dying” is a collaborative research project between the Erasmus School of Law and the Public Health department of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. Our aim is to combine empirical research with the expertise of criminal law to better understand, regulate, and control end-of-life decision making in health care and (criminal) law.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world with a legal provision to allow physicians to provide their patients with assistance in dying. Having such regulation, however, has not ended the societal debate about the role of physicians in death and dying. Complicated ethical and legal problems remain for many patients groups, such as children between 1-12 years old, psychiatric patients, individuals who are tired of life, and patients with dementia. Further, there is also debate about whether or not the act of assistance in dying should be limited to physicians.

In our project, we study the societal, ethical and legal issues in end-of-life decision making at the perimeters of the euthanasia law. 

Erasmus School of Law, department of criminal law

Not only lawyers and government, currently also the public and media are focused on the fairness and effectiveness of our criminal system. Big data, the internet, DNA sequencing techniques and a societal focus on terrorism, among others, affect the boundaries between privacy and human rights of the individual and the protection of society. The department of criminal law offers the opportunity to study criminal law and criminal law procedure to aspiring lawyers, attorneys, and future judges.

Research within the department focuses on many different controversial areas of the criminal law system, such as collecting and preserving cell material regarding DNA research for conviction; investigational practices concerning confiscated electronic data carriers; Dutch sanction policy regarding persistent young adult offenders; and an evaluation of the legal position of patients in forced care. In the field of (mental) health care, regulations concerning the enforcement of criminal, administrative and disciplinary law and regulations in end-of-life-cases are the focus. 

Erasmus MC, department of Public Health, End-of-life Care Research Group

This internationally esteemed research group was initiated in 1990 by performing the very first large-scale empirical study of the practice of euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions. The group publishes in many highly-ranked scientific journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet and others. In total, the group currently comprises one professor, two postdoctoral researchers, and twelve PhD students with various backgrounds, such as medicine, nursing care, psychology and health sciences. Research topics include tools to improve care of dying patients, quality and costs of end-of-life care in hospitals, epidemiological/clinical/ethical characteristics of end-of-life decision making practices, and advance care planning.

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr Michelle Habets.