Dutch doctor acquitted in case of euthanasia of patient with dementia

The Hague – A Dutch doctor was acquitted on Wednesday of all charges for the euthanasia of an elderly patient who suffered from dementia.

The court case centres on a 74-year-old woman who was given fatal doses of drugs three years ago despite some indications she might have changed her mind. The doctor in the case is accused of making insufficient efforts to find out whether the patient still wanted to die.

She is charged with breaching the euthanasia law and, if the judge rules the request of the patient was insufficient, that charge could in theory become murder. But the prosecution is not seeking any penal sentence against the doctor and does not question her good faith. Instead, the prosecution centres its case on setting out a better legal framework for the future.

Judges at the Hague District court found the patient had expressly requested euthanasia at an earlier stage in her disease, and the doctor had acted carefully in accordance with the law in the case, consulting other doctors and the patient’s family, and on the basis of her will.

Euthanasia is legal under Dutch law under restricted conditions, including that a patient be undergoing unbearable suffering with no hope of recovery, and wishes to die. 

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