Dutch court docket clears physician in landmark euthanasia trial

A Dutch physician was acquitted Wednesday in a landmark trial that prosecutors and physicians hope will assist make clear how the nation’s 2002 euthanasia regulation may be utilized to folks with extreme dementia.

The physician, who was not named in court docket, was cleared of any wrongdoing in finishing up euthanasia three years in the past on a 74-year-old girl. The affected person was given deadly doses of medicine regardless of some indications she might need modified her thoughts since declaring in writing that she wished euthanasia.

The court docket dominated that in uncommon circumstances of euthanasia that have been being carried out on sufferers with extreme dementia — and who had earlier made a written request for euthanasia — the physician “didn’t need to confirm the present need to die.”

Judges at The Hague District Court dominated that the physician met all standards for finishing up euthanasia beneath the Dutch regulation legalizing mercy killing by physicians. Applause broke out among the many dozens of people that attended the listening to.

The physician was accused of not performing with due care as a result of, prosecutors alleged, she made inadequate efforts to seek out out whether or not the affected person nonetheless wished to die. To perform the euthanasia, the doctor drugged the affected person’s espresso with out her data after which had relations restrain the girl whereas delivering the deadly injection.

Prosecution spokeswoman Sanne van der Harg mentioned prosecutors would rigorously examine the judgment earlier than deciding whether or not to attraction.

Steven Pleiter of the Euthanasia Expertise Center welcomed the decision.

“It feels good for folks within the Netherlands that it is a clear view of the judges and court docket that it’s attainable to present euthanasia to an individual who just isn’t mentally competent any longer,” he mentioned.

Under Dutch regulation, persons are eligible for euthanasia in the event that they make a thought of, voluntary request for it and if their struggling is hopelessly “insufferable.” Patients can draw up a written request for euthanasia to be carried out someday sooner or later, in an advance directive, which ought to specify the situations figuring out after they need to be euthanized. Doctors should additionally search the recommendation of not less than one different unbiased doctor earlier than killing the affected person.

Euthanasia circumstances amongst folks with superior dementia are extraordinarily uncommon; there have been fewer than 20 circumstances for the reason that process was legalized in 2002.

“The most essential situation now we have to evaluate as docs is whether or not there’s insufferable struggling for the affected person,” mentioned Dr. Rene Heman, president of the Royal Dutch Medical Association.

He mentioned the group is engaged on tips for a way docs ought to deal with euthanasia circumstances in folks with superior dementia.

“As a physician, it’s essential to be sure that folks do not change their minds,” he mentioned.

Dutch investigators started scrutinizing the case final September, marking the primary time a physician was criminally investigated for euthanasia.

The 74-year-old girl had renewed her residing will a few yr earlier than she died, writing that she wished to be euthanized “at any time when I feel the time is true.” Later, the affected person mentioned a number of occasions in response to being requested if she wished to die: “But not simply now, it is not so unhealthy but!” based on a report from the Dutch regional euthanasia assessment committee.

In asserting the decision, the court docket mentioned the affected person not acknowledged her personal reflection within the mirror.

Suzanne van de Vathorst, an affiliate professor who makes a speciality of ethics and end-of-life points at Erasmus University, mentioned euthanizing sufferers with extreme dementia places a substantial burden on docs.

“There’s a residing, respiration particular person in entrance of you who just isn’t conscious that you simply’re performing euthanasia,” she mentioned. “This is a really tough factor to do and we can not oblige docs to do that.”

The Netherlands is one in all 5 international locations that permit docs to kill sufferers at their request, and one in all two, together with Belgium, that grant the process for folks with psychological sickness.

The trial of a Belgian psychiatrist charged with improperly euthanizing a lady with autism is ready to be heard later this yr.


Cheng reported from London.

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