Netherlands Starts First-Ever Judicial Proceeedings for Breach of Euthanasia Law

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

A doctor who slipped a sleeping drug into a 74-year-old woman's coffee before administering a lethal drug as members of her family held her down is to be the first medic to be prosecuted for breaching Dutch euthanasia laws.

In a statement, a public prosecutor in The Hague said the doctor could not have unambiguously come to the conclusion that the patient wanted to die. Prosecutors said it was doubtful whether the doctor was entitled to rely on it without verifying the euthanasia request with the patient.

The Netherlands is one of a handful countries, including Switzerland and Belgium, that allow doctors to kill patients at their request under very strict conditions.

Dutch officials say they will prosecute a nursing home doctor for euthanizing an elderly woman with dementia, the first time a doctor has been charged since the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002.

The nursing home's senior doctor was of the opinion that the patient was suffering intolerably, but that she was no longer in a position where she could confirm that the time was now right for the euthanasia to go ahead.

Prosecutors said Friday that the woman's will, drawn up several years before her admission to the nursing home, was "unclear and contradictory". The outcome considers that the doctor had swetes with the opinion of the patient during the procedure, not considering her unstable mental state.

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Her spokesman told Dutch television channel NOS that she welcomed "further guidance on the question of the wishes of incapacitated patients", but "regrets" that she is being prosecuted over the April 2016 case.

"Although the woman had regularly stated that she wanted to die, on other occasions she had said that she did not want to die", it added. Two are now under investigation by prosecutors.

"This case addresses important legal issues regarding the termination of life of dementia patients", the OM said in a statement. To get these questions answered, the prosecution service now presents this specific issue to the court'.

Last year, nearly 7,000 people chose to die by euthanasia in the Netherlands - equating to more than 4% of all deaths.

Twelve cases were identified as having possible concerns by the committee, of which two are now under investigation by prosecutors.

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