Wednesday 08 December 2021

Doctor in euthanasia case guilty of murder, public prosecutor says


A doctor who performed euthanasia on a patient with severe dementia should be found guilty of murder but not given any punishment, the public prosecution department said at the doctor’s trial in The Hague on Monday.

While there are no doubts about the doctor’s good intentions, she should have been more proactive in talking to the patient about her wish to die, the public prosecutor said in court.

The case, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, centres on a 74-year-old woman who had drawn up a living will some years before her admission to the nursing home and had regularly stated that she wanted to die.

‘This is a case which impacts upon the whole country and which has divided the country,’ the prosecutor said.

The doctor said in court that she had spoken three times to her patient about her wish to die, but not about her living will because ‘she could not remember anything about it’. Her long and short-term memory was shot and she no longer recognised her husband, the doctor said.

The woman’s daughter said in a written statement in court that she had no doubt her mother wished to die. ‘The doctor freed my mother from the mental prison which she ended up in,’ the statement said.

Euthanasia for people with severe dementia is rare and last year two cases were reported. In total 144 people who were in the first stages of the disease were given euthanasia, compared to 12 a decade ago.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands under strict conditions. For example, the patient must be suffering unbearable pain and the doctor must be convinced the patient is making an informed choice. The opinion of a second doctor is also required.

Since the legislation was introduced in 2002, there have been a number of controversial cases, including a woman suffering severe tinnitus and a serious alcoholic.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.