Dutch doc­tor charged in eu­thana­sia case

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Our For­eign Staff

‘The pa­tient’s dec­la­ra­tion has to be clear, so doc­tors know when eu­thana­sia can be ap­plied’

DUTCH of­fi­cials are set to pros­e­cute a doc­tor for eu­thanis­ing an el­derly woman with de­men­tia, the first time such a per­son has been charged since the Nether­lands le­galised the prac­tice.

Pros­e­cu­tors claimed yes­ter­day that the doc­tor “had not acted care­fully” and had “over­stepped a line” by her ac­tion. Of­fi­cials be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing in Septem­ber, when they al­legedly found the doc­tor had drugged the 74-year-old pa­tient’s cof­fee and then had fam­ily mem­bers hold her down while she al­legedly de­liv­ered the fa­tal in­jec­tion.

The doc­tor said she was ful­fill­ing the pa­tient’s ear­lier eu­thana­sia re­quest and that as the pa­tient was not com­pe­tent be­cause of her de­men­tia, noth­ing she said dur­ing the pro­ce­dure was rel­e­vant. But pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued that the pa­tient’s writ­ten eu­thana­sia re­quest was “un­clear and con­tra­dic­tory”.

An ear­lier re­port by one of the Nether­lands’ eu­thana­sia re­view com­mit­tees stated: “In her liv­ing will, the woman wrote that she wanted to be eu­thanised ‘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.’ ” Cit­ing the doc­tor’s own tes­ti­mony, it claimed: “Even if the pa­tient had said at that mo­ment: ‘I don’t want to die,’ the physi­cian would have con­tin­ued.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said yes­ter­day 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, so doc­tors know when eu­thana­sia can be ap­plied. But should this in­clude a sit­u­a­tion where doc­tors are drug­ging pa­tients se­cretly? It’s for the court to de­cide whether this doc­tor acted within the re­quired lim­its.”

Eu­thana­sia was le­galised in the Nether­lands in 2002.

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