Dutch euthanasia case: Physician acted in curiosity of affected person, court docket guidelines

A nurse holding a syringe

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Euthanasia was legalised within the Netherlands in 2002 (inventory picture)


A physician accused of failing to confirm consent earlier than performing euthanasia on a dementia affected person has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Dutch court docket.

The 74-year-old affected person, who died in 2016, had expressed a want to be euthanised but additionally indicated that she wished to find out the appropriate time.


Judges stated the physician acted lawfully as not finishing up the method would have undermined the affected person’s want.

It’s the first such case for the reason that nation legalised euthanasia in 2002.

Delivering the decision at a court docket in The Hague on Wednesday, choose Mariette Renckens stated that “all necessities of the euthanasia laws” had been met.

“Due to this fact the suspect is acquitted of all costs,” the choose stated.

Prosecutors argued that the physician, who has not been named and has since retired, “acted with the very best intentions” however broke Dutch euthanasia legislation by failing to make sure the consent of the lady, who could have modified her thoughts.

They argued extra intensive dialogue might have taken place earlier than the choice to finish her life.

The physician allegedly sedated the lady, who was affected by Alzheimer’s illness, then she requested her household to carry her down as she administered a deadly drug.

She maintained that she had acted cautiously.

The trial was thought of an vital take a look at case, as individuals are residing longer and are subsequently extra more likely to develop circumstances that have an effect on their capacity to assume and bear in mind.

When do you cease asking if somebody desires to dwell?

By Anna Holligan, BBC Hague correspondent

Ought to somebody who makes a selection when they’re of sound thoughts be held to that selection when they don’t seem to be? Sure, was the choose’s reply to the important thing query on the coronary heart of this emotive take a look at case.

There was a small spherical of applause as the decision was learn out in entrance of a crowded courtroom. Euthanasia is meant to empower the affected person, providing them the prospect to resolve once they wish to die. Even in a rustic the place it has been authorized for nearly 20 years, the follow stays controversial.

On this case, the judges dominated that by the point the affected person died it could have been not possible to ascertain what she wished, such was the severity of her dementia that she not understood what the phrase “euthanasia” even meant.

This trial pressured docs and attorneys to confront a sensible and ethical dilemma; at what level do you cease checking if somebody desires to dwell or die, and may they nonetheless have the ability to resolve if they don’t seem to be totally accountable for their psychological capacities?

What occurred to the affected person?

After being recognized with Alzheimer’s 4 years earlier than she died, the affected person wrote a press release saying that she wished to be euthanised earlier than getting into a care dwelling – however that she wished to resolve when the time was proper.

Earlier than she was taken into care, a physician determined that assisted suicide must be administered based mostly on her prior assertion. This was confirmed by two separate docs independently and a date was set.

When the day got here to finish the lady’s life, a sedative was put in her espresso and he or she misplaced consciousness.

However the lady then wakened and needed to be held down by her daughter and husband whereas the method was completed.

Why did the case find yourself in court docket?

On the centre of the case was the query of the lady’s capacity to consent to ending her life regardless of her earlier assertion.

“A vital query to this case is how lengthy a physician ought to proceed consulting a affected person with dementia, if the affected person in an earlier stage already requested euthanasia,” prosecution service spokeswoman Sanna van der Harg stated.

“We don’t doubt the physician’s trustworthy intentions,” she stated.

“A extra intensive dialogue with the affected person” might have taken place earlier than the choice to finish her life, she added.

Nevertheless, the daughter of the deceased lady thanked the physician.

“The physician freed my mom from the psychological jail which she ended up in,” she stated in a press release.

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Media captionEuthanasia: “I don’t really feel like I’m killing the affected person”