Dutch to pros­e­cute doc­tor who eu­th­a­nized woman with de­men­tia

Penticton Herald - - LIFE - By The As­so­ci­ated Press

THE HAGUE, Nether­lands — Dutch of­fi­cials said Fri­day 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.

Dutch pros­e­cu­tors said in a state­ment the doc­tor “had not acted care­fully” and “over­stepped a line” when she per­formed euthana­sia. Of­fi­cials first be­gan prob­ing the case in Septem­ber, when they found the doc­tor had drugged the pa­tient’s cof­fee and then had fam­ily mem­bers hold her down while de­liv­er­ing the fa­tal in­jec­tion.

The doc­tor said she was ful­fill­ing the pa­tient’s ear­lier euthana­sia re­quest and that since the pa­tient was not com­pe­tent, noth­ing the woman said dur­ing her euthana­sia pro­ce­dure was rel­e­vant.

But Dutch pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued that the pa­tient’s writ­ten euthana­sia re­quest was “un­clear and con­tra­dic­tory.”

“In her liv­ing will, the woman wrote that she wanted to be eu­th­a­nized ‘when­ever I think the time is right.’ But af­ter be­ing asked sev­eral times in the nurs­ing home whether she wanted to die, she said, ‘Not just now, it’s not so bad yet,’” ac­cord­ing to an ear­lier re­port by one of the Nether­lands’ euthana­sia re­view com­mit­tees.

“Even if the pa­tient had said at that mo­ment: ‘I don't want to die,’ the physi­cian would have con­tin­ued,” the com­mit­tee wrote, cit­ing the doc­tor’s tes­ti­mony.

Pros­e­cu­tors said on Fri­day that the doc­tor should have ver­i­fied with the pa­tient whether or not she still wanted to die and that “the fact that she had be­come de­mented does not al­ter this.”

Jo­han Lege­maate, a pro­fes­sor of health law at the Uni­ver­sity of Am­s­ter­dam, said: “The pa­tient’s dec­la­ra­tion has to be clear enough to the sit­u­a­tion so doc­tors know when euthana­sia can be ap­plied.”

“But should this in­clude a sit­u­a­tion where doc­tors are drug­ging pa­tients se­cretly? It’s now for the court to de­cide whether this doc­tor acted within the re­quired lim­its,” he added.

Lege­maate said that there were few cases of euthana­sia in pa­tients with ad­vanced de­men­tia, but that the de­ci­sion to pros­e­cute the doc­tor in this case might pro­voke more cau­tion among health pro­fes­sion­als.

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