Editors: David Albert Jones, Chris Gastmans, and Calum MacKellar
Publisher: Cambridge University Press – 363 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Belgium is one of only a few countries that allow physicians to assist in the death of patients. The other countries are: Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and in the United States in the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia (currently known as Washington D.C.). This information is obtained from a recent article in Wikipedia.

‘Assisted suicide’ is suicide committed with the aid of another person. When a physician assists in this process, it is referred to as ‘physician-assisted suicide. The article states further:

‘In the United States, seven states allow medical aid in dying, a legal practice in which a person who has been diagnosed as terminally ill with 6 months or less to live can request a lethal dose of a medication to self-administer in order to end their life. This option is designated a legal form of assisted suicide by distinct state laws. Non-medical assisted suicide is unlawful by common law or criminal statute in the vast majority of the United States (with some states having no definitive law or statute)”.

This book examines evidence from Belgium where euthanasia is practiced legally. In the introductory description of this book, the following has been written as some sort of summary on it: “Looking at it from an international perspective, the authors have written an invaluable in-depth analysis of the ethical aspects of this complex area.” Much is discussed in this book on various related issues, as you will note in our list of chapters below, but here is a continuation of the book description that we find to be an essential element:

“The discussion forma a solid foundation for informed debated about assisted dying. With contributors from a broad range of disciplines, this is ideal for students, academics, legislators and anyone interested in legal, medical, social and philosophical ethics. This book is a vital and timely examination of a growing phenomenon and one of the most challenging ethical questions of our time.”

Below we present to you the list of the 15 chapters of this book, with an Introduction and Conclusion, that serves as a broad overview of what you will find in the this important book on the burning issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia:


  1. Part I. Euthanasia Legislation in Belgium and Its Applications
  2. A Discussion of the Legal Rules on Euthanasia in Belgium Briefly Compared with the Rules in Luxembourg and the Netherlands
  3. The Belgian Experience of Euthanasia Since Its Legal Implementation in 2002
  4. Ethics and the Psychiatric Dimensions of Physician-Assisted Suicide: A View from the United States
  5. Part II. Euthanasia and End-of-Life Care
  6. Assisted Dying: The Current Situation in Flanders: Euthanasia Embedded in Palliative Care
  7. The Practice of Continuous Sedation at the End of Life in Belgium: How Does It Compare to UK Practice, and Is It Being Used As a Form of Euthanasia?
  8. 2002-2016: Fourteen Years of Euthanasia in Belgium: First-Line Observations by an Oncologist
  9. ‘A Last Act of Grace’? Organ Donation and Euthanasia in Belgium
  10. Part III. Euthanasia and Particular Vulnerable Groups
  11. A Life worth Living? Disabled People and Euthanasia in Belgium
  12. Euthanasia in Patients with Intolerable Suffering Due to an Irremediable Psychiatric Illness: A Psychiatric Perspective
  13. Euthanasia in Children: Keep Asking the Right Questions
  14. Euthanizing People Who Are ‘Tied of Life’
  15. Euthanasia in Persons with Severe Dementia
  16. Part IV. Euthanasia in Belgium: A Philosophical and Bioethical Discussion
  17. Some Possible Consequences Arising from the Normalization of Euthanasia in Belgium
  18. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Belgium: Bringing an End to Interminable Discussion
  19. Psychiatric Patients and the Culture of Euthanasia in Belgium

Final Conclusions on Final Solutions

This is an excellent, well-written book, with a lot of details and detailed discussions on euthanasia, assisted suicide, and related matters, understanding gained on various types of people and their motivations for ending their lives, examinations of actual cases, and the overall situation that existed before assisted suicide was made legal in 2002, as well as the outcome and results 14 years later in 2016.



David Albert Jones is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, England, and a Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. He is also a Research Fellow at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London. He is Vice Chair of the Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee.

Chris Gastmans is a Professor of Medical Ethics and Director of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law in the Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven in Belgium. He was a member of the Bureau of European Association of Centres of Medical Ethics and held the positions of Secretary-General, Treasurer and President.

Calum MacKellar is Director of Research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics in Edinburgh and a Member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham.