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Dutch doctor will not be prosecuted for euthanasia of semi-conscious woman

31 October 2018

 
The doctor has been cleared of a breach of care, despite not obtaining proper consent.

There has not been a single prosecution to date

In news that demonstrates how little so-called safeguards in euthanasia regimes do to protect the most vulnerable, prosecutors in the Netherlands have dropped a case against a physician who euthanised a semi-conscious, severely impaired patient without written consent.

Unable to consent

The case involved a 72-year-old woman suffering from metastatic pancreatic cancer, and who had a cerebral haemorrhage that left her barely able to communicate. Despite the fact that she hadn't signed a written declaration of consent, she was euthanised in April 2017.

The Regional Euthanasia Review Committee had passed the case onto the public prosecutor in Oost-Nederland saying that the doctor responsible had breached its criteria for due care. However, the prosecutor has now said it was convinced that the woman’s wish for euthanasia was voluntary, well-considered, and that she could "properly communicate her wishes by nodding her head and gesturing with her hands."

"This meant that a written declaration of intent was not necessary," said the service in a news release. She had also expressed her wish for euthanasia several times before the brain haemorrhage, and was clearly in pain and suffering unbearably with no hope of treatment, it concluded.

One of many

This case is among several currently under investigation by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service. Other cases include a 67 year old woman with Alzheimer's, who, it is claimed, was killed despite being unable to give consent, and an 84-year-old woman who was euthanised last June after claiming her life was "hopeless" because of several physical illnesses.

These cases are among 12 which were flagged by the monitoring committee as not being properly carried out following on from a horrific case last year when a doctor was reprimanded for euthanising a dementia patient without consent. The Public Prosecution Service said that it intended to release its findings on the other cases within the next few weeks.

Despite worldwide media attention focused on the abuse of the Dutch euthanasia law,  there has not been a single prosecution of a doctor involved in euthanasia to date. The doctor who drugged and held down the dementia patient was later cleared by a review panel.

News in brief:

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