Dutch prosecute doctor for euthanizing woman with dementia | News | DW | 09.11.2018
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Dutch prosecute doctor for euthanizing woman with dementia

The doctor is charged with euthanizing an elderly woman with dementia without adequately confirming that she wanted to die. It's the first case of its type since the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002.

Dutch prosecutors launched a criminal case on Friday against a doctor who euthanized an elderly woman with dementia in April 2016.

The doctor "had not acted carefully" and "overstepped a line" when she euthanized the patient, the prosecutors said in a statement.

Read more: German Health Ministry calls for ban on euthanasia drugs

The 74-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years before her death, had made a written euthanasia request.

But the prosecutors argued that the patient's request was "unclear and contradictory."

Fatal injection

"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,'" a euthanasia review committee said in an earlier report.

"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.

The doctor, who has not been named, allegedly laced the woman's coffee with a sleeping drug and then had family members hold her down while delivering the fatal injection.

Read more: 104-year-old Australian was in high spirits before dying in Switzerland

Prosecutors said on Friday that the doctor should have verified the euthanasia request with the patient before administering the injection.

Doctor 'regrets' prosecution

The doctor believed she had acted cautiously and "welcomes further guidance on the question of the wishes of incapacitated patients," her spokesman was quoted as saying by the NOS public television channel.

"She regrets however that she has been prosecuted for this."

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The right to die in Belgium

The Netherlands is one of a handful countries, including Switzerland and Belgium, that allow doctors to kill patients at their request under very strict conditions. It is one of two, along with Belgium, that grant the procedure for people with mental illness.

Last year, more than 6,500 people chose euthanasia to end their own lives in the Netherlands, about 4.4 percent of all registered deaths in the country.

Twelve cases were identified by Dutch officials over concerns of possible irregularities. Two are now under investigation by prosecutors.

Assisting a suicide or providing a means to commit suicide outside of the strict euthanasia rules is punishable with a jail term of up to three years.

ap/amp (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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