Ethical issues

These documents provide answers to questions regarding Dutch policy on ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, drugs, prostitution and same-sex marriage. All documents can be downloaded in PDF.

FAQ Drugs

This document answers more than 30 question about Dutch policy on drugs. The aim of policy is to prevent drug use, and reduce the harm drugs cause. The main instruments are information for schools and campaigns highlighting the risks posed by drug use. Needle supply and exchange schemes are forms of accessible care which aim to prevent injecting drug users from contracting HIV/AIDS, or experiencing other negative effects.

In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between hard drugs and cannabis. The sale of cannabis in coffee shops is a misdemeanour, but offenders are not prosecuted if they meet certain very strict conditions. The idea is that if cannabis users are kept away from illegally operating dealers, the chance of them coming into contact with hard drugs is smaller.

Three ministries are responsible for policy on drugs. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for enforcement, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for prevention and care, and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations for matters relating to local government and the police.

FAQ Euthanasia

This document answers questions about Dutch policy on euthanasia. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is understood to mean termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient. Pain, humiliation and the desire to die with dignity are the main reasons why patients request euthanasia.
Patients who are suffering unbearably may, after serious consideration, request that their life be terminated. Dutch law allows for doctors to comply with such requests in certain cases. In principle, euthanasia is an offence under Dutch law, unless the doctor reports the fact and he/she has complied with the statutory due care criteria.
Policy on euthanasia is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.

FAQ Abortion

This document answers eight questions about Dutch policy on abortion. Abortus (arte) provocatus (abortion) is the medical expression for deliberate termination of pregnancy before childbirth. It is listed as an offence in the Dutch Criminal Code, but the doctor performing the procedure will not be prosecuted if the woman says that her pregnancy has put her in a difficult position. The woman decides for herself whether her position is so serious that it warrants an abortion. It was a deliberate decision not to include criteria relating to this position in the Termination of Pregnancy Act.

FAQ Prostitution

This document answers 19 questions about Dutch policy on prostitution and human trafficking. In 2000, the Netherlands lifted the ban on brothels, so that running one is no longer a punishable offence. The ban was lifted for two reasons: first to improve the position of prostitutes by introducing licences for businesses where men or women are employed as prostitutes and second, to tackle abuses by taking firmer action against businesses operating without licences. An important aim of the policy is to put an end to human trafficking. Trafficking was illegal before the ban on brothels was lifted.

The Ministry of Security and Justice is responsible for policy on prostitution.

FAQ Same-sex marriage

This document answers 14 questions about Dutch policy on same-sex marriage. Since 1 April 2001, same-sex couples in the Netherlands have been allowed to marry.

In principle, marriage between same-sex couples entails the same conditions and consequences as marriage between couples of different sexes. The conditions and rules for entering into, solemnising and dissolving the marriage are the same, as are the couple’s rights and obligations towards each other. There are a few major differences, which have to do with the relationship with children born during the marriage.

In the Netherlands, parliament opted to enable same-sex couples to enter into the same kind of civil marriage contract that already existed for couples of different sexes. The Same-Sex Marriage Act of 21 December 2000, which entered into force on 1 April 2001, only amends the provisions of Book One of the Dutch Civil Code. So the Netherlands definitely does not have ‘gay marriage’, in the sense of a form of marriage specially for same-sex couples.



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