Judges in The Hague have found a nursing home doctor not guilty of murder after she performed euthanasia on a woman with severe dementia.
The court ruled that the euthanasia had been carried out with proper care in what is the first case of its kind to come before the Dutch courts. The doctor, who has since retired, did not have to verify her wish to die with the patient because she was incapable of responding, the judges said.
In addition, the court said it supported the doctor’s decision to put a sedative in the woman’s coffee to calm her before euthanasia drugs could be administered because it had made her as comfortable as possible. The sedation took place in the full knowledge of her family.
The public prosecution department, who brought the case, had said the doctor is guilty of murder but that she should not be punished.
The case 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 told the court during August’s hearing.
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 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.
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