I studied theology at the Theological University of Kampen (MA 1972) and philosophy at the University of Leiden (MA 1973) and spend a year (1973-1974) as a recognized student at the University of Oxford.
From 1974 to 2008 I have been employed by the University of Amsterdam. I began working as a student advisor in what was then the Central Interfaculty (Faculty of Philosophy), and worked from 1976 to 1989 as an assistant professor in that same faculty, section Ethics. During that time I also taught introductory courses in moral and political philosophy in the Subfaculty of Education. I received my PhD in philosophy in 1985 from the University of Amsterdam. My supervisor was Trudy van Asperen.
From 1989 to 1995 I worked as an associate professor in the Faculties of Philosophy and Law, teaching moral, political and legal philosophy, and from 1991 on also as an extraordinary professor of medical ethics in the Faculty of Medicine, on behalf of the Dutch Humanistic Alliance (Socrates-Foundation). From 1995 I held the chair of moral philosophy in what would soon become the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of the Humanities, together with Frans Jacobs. I retired in 2008.
In 2002 I published "Mutual Expectations: a Conventionalist Theory of Law". The theory of the relation between ethics and the law that the book provides situates itself in the modern natural law tradition from Grotius to Hume. It can be downloaded from this page.
I spend two sabbathicals as a fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies in Wassenaar, 1987-1988 and 2000-2001. I was a visiting scholar at the Departments of Philosophy of the University of Toronto (1997) and of New York University (2004).
In 1992 I took the initiative of founding the Netherlands School for Research in Practical Philosophy, together with Robert Heeger and Bert Musschenga, and functioned as the school's first director from 1993-1998. From 2006-2010 I was president of the school's board. I have been the editor of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy of Kluwer, later Springer from 1997-2008.
In 1995-1996 I participated in the work of the committee which prepared the fusion of the Faculties of Arts, Philosophy and Theology into the new Faculty of Humanities, and I was a member of the board of ASCA from 1997-2005. In 2008 I presided the QANU review committee that assessed most of the degree (MA and BA) programs in philosophy of the Dutch universities.
I served as a member of the Regional Review Committee for Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Zuidholland/Zeeland from 1998-2010, and as a member of the Health Council, permanent advisory committee for Health Ethics and Health Law, from 2003-2020. I am still active as a member of the permanent committee of the Centre for Ethics and Health (CEG).
In recent years I have been working on a book that will discuss personal and medical decision-making about the end of life, and the regulation of these decision by law and medical professional morality. Personal decisions: is there a right to suicide, should it be illegal to assist a person in ending her life? Medical decisions: using palliative medicine with possible life-shortening effects, sedation until the end of life (combined with abstaining from the provision of food and drink), physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Some chapters will also deal with special categories of people: psychiatric patients, elderly people with a death-wish who have no fatal disease, demented patients with an advance directive.
The manuscript is presently (8/2021) under consideration for publication. Its title will be What Kind of Death?
Some parts of the book have been published as separate papers. The papers marked by an asterix (*) can be downloaded from this page.
*Death Wishes of the Elderly. In: Wim Pinxten, Maartje Schermer eds. Healthcare Ethics and Policy in an (Anti-)Aging Society. 2013
*The Authority of Advance Directives. In: Yvonne Denier, Chris Gastmans, Antoon Vandevelde eds. Justice, Luck and Responsibility in Health Care. 2013
Continuous deep sedation and homicide: an unsolved question in ethics and law. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 19 (2016): 285-297.
Two Kinds of Suicide. Bioethics 30 (2016): 672-680.
Sedation until Death: are the requirements laid down in the guidelines too restrictive? Kennnedy Institute of Ethics Journal 26 (2016): 369-397.26 (2016): 369-397.
*Suffering and dying well. The aim of palliative care. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 20 (2017): 3: 413-424.
Two kinds of physician-assisted death. Bioethics 31 (2017): 666-673.
De WTL: een potemkindorp? In: Laura De Vito red., 15 jaar Euthanasiewet, Amsterdam: NVVE 2017, 142-165. (Is the Dutch euthanasia law a Potemtkin village?)
Doodswensen van hoogbejaarden: een probleem voor de maatschappij, voor de dokter, of alleen voor de ouderen zelf? Filosofie & Praktijk 38 (2017), 39-57. (Death wishes of the elderly)
Counting cases of termination of life without request: new dances with data. Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics. 29 (2020): 395-402
Some related papers about end-of-life issues will not be included in the book:
The Slippery Slope Argument. In: Peter Singer, Helga Kuhse eds., Companion to Bioethicsm sec. ed. 2009.Relieving one’s relatives from the burdens of care. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 21 (2018), 403-410.
*The Regulation of Euthanasia: How successful is the Dutch System? In: Stuart J. Youngner, Gerrit K. Kimsma eds. Physician-Assisted Death in Perspective: Assessing the Dutch Experience. 2012
*De morele grondslagen van het gezondheidsrecht: de erfenis van Leenen. In: Ethiek en Gezondheidsrecht, Preadvies voor de Vereniging voor Gezondheidsrecht. Den Haag: SDU uitgevers 2014, p. 13-89. (The moral foundations of health law)
*Comforting the parents by administering neuromuscular blockers to the dying child. A conflict between ethics and law? Journal of Applied Philosophy, 31 (2014), 91-103.
*Do we need a threshold conception of competence? Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (2016): 71-83.
Levens wegen: commentaar op twee draaiboeken. In: Ellen Segeren, Nico Groen red. Ethiek in Tijden van Corona, Den Haag: Centrum voor Ethiek en Gezondheid 2020, 85-94. (Selection of patients for treatment in a situation of extreme scarcity)
Decriminalizing Assisted Suicide Services: a Comment on the Decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) of 26 February 2020, European Constitutional Law Review, 16 (2020): 713-732.
At present I am working on some fundamental philosophical problems concerning death and killing: whether existence can be either a harm or a benefit, why survival normally is a benefit to us (the Epicurean challenge), whether and why it can be in a person's interest to die, the right to life (does it protect one's interest in life or one's freedom to make choices as regards one's life?), is there a right to end one's own life?, can the right to life be waived?, impersonal aspects of the prohibition on killing (the "sanctity of life" and "human dignity"), the moral relevance of the distinctions between killing and letting die, and between death as an intended and a merely foreseen effect of one'a action.
Papers about some of these issues that have been published:
*‘Gij zult niet doodslaan’, Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 101 (2009), 164-195. (Thou shalt not kill) Focus-article, with comments by Inez de Beaufort, Marcus Düwell, John Griffiths, Martin van Hees, Liesbet Vanhaute, Henri Wijsbek, 196-217, and Reply to comments, 218-225.
*Is Human Dignity the Ground of Human Rights? In: Marcus Düwell, Jens Braarvig, Roger Brownsword, Dietmar Mieth eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014, 200-207.
The medical exception to the prohibition of killing: a matter of the right intention? Ratio Juris 32 (2019): 157-176.
Kunnen wij onze eigen dood onder ogen zien? Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte 111 (2019) (4): 643-664. (Can we face up to our own death?)
Until recently ethical aspects of organ donation and transplantation have been another focus of interest for me. In 2008 I published a report: *Farewell to Non-commitment: decision systems for organ donation from an ethical viewpoint.
Since then I have developed several chapters of this report into separate papers:
Trading with the Waiting-List: the Justice of Living Donor List Exchange. Bioethics 24 (2010): 190-198.
Priority to registered donors on the waiting list for postmortal organs? A critical look at the objections. Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (2011): 149-152.
Tacitly consenting to donate one’s organs. Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (2011), 344-347
Can Consent be Presumed? Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (2011), 295-307.
In the best interests of the deceased: A possible justification for organ removal without consent? Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics. 32 (2011): 259-69. Published online 19 May 2011.
The role of the relatives in opt-in systems of postmortal organ procurement. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 15 (2012): 195-205.
Is Consent of the Donor Enough to Justify the Removal of Living Organs? Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics 22: 1 (jan. 2013), 45-54
*Review of: T.M. Wilkinson, Ethics and the Acquisition of Organs; Janet Radcliffe Richards, The Ethics of Transplants: Why Careless Thought Costs Lives. Medical Law Review 21 (2013), 647-657
The Political Obligation to Donate Organs. Ratio Juris. 26 (2013), 378-403
When are you dead enough to be a donor? Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 40 (2019), 299-319.
Respect for autonomy in systems of postmortal organ procurement: a comment. Bioethics 33 (2019): 550-556 (On: R.M. Veatch, L.F Ross, Transplantation Ethics, sec. ed.)
If possible I hope in the future to complete or update the following papers on other subjects: