Palliative sedation


Palliative sedation

Palliative sedation entails that the patient's level of consciousness is lowered in the last phase of life to alleviate suffering. This is a normal medical treatment, because it does not hasten death in most cases.1 Therefore, the use of palliative sedation does not need to be reported or reviewed (compared to euthanasia or assisted suicide). However, in some situations palliative sedation can have a double effect: on the one hand it can lead to an alleviation of suffering (as intended), on the other hand it can hasten the patient's death.

Palliative sedation is only allowed in the last phase of life when the life expectancy is less than two weeks.2 There need to be one or more untreatable symptoms resulting in unbearable suffering of the patient. These symptoms can concern pain, shortness of breath or confusion.


1. KNMG-richtlijn, Palliatieve sedatie, Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot bevordering der Geneeskunst, Utrecht 2009.

2. H.J.J. Leenen e.a., Handboek Gezondheidsrecht, Den Haag: Boom Juridische Uitgevers 2014, p. 386-387.

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Erasmus School of Law
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