Skip links

Dutch Euthanasia Case Highlights Europe’s Growing Culture of Death

The doctor asked the patient’s daughter and her son-in-law to help hold the woman down. It was then the 74-year-old, who suffered from severe dementia, began to struggle as the doctor proceeded to administer a lethal injection. Moments later, the woman was dead.

This is not the plot of a horror movie. Instead, these are the basic facts of what is alleged to have happened in a Dutch care home in 2016, facts which now form part of the criminal case being brought against the doctor who performed the euthanasia. The case is also gaining world attention as a potential indicator of how euthanasia laws might fare in other countries.


Life on the Cheap

In a Dutch court, prosecutors now say that the doctor did not obtain the full consent of the unnamed woman. They point to the fact that the elderly patient fought for her life as the lethal injection was administered — proof in itself, prosecutors argue, that she could not have given consent, or given it with the knowledge and understanding required for her consent to be meaningful.

The woman killed had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. Before being admitted to the care home where she died, she signed a statement saying that she wished to be euthanized. There was a coda to her statement, however, which said that she “wanted to be able to decide [when to die] while still in my senses and when I think the time is right.”

The law case is due to conclude in the coming weeks, but, surprisingly, given the facts, even if the unnamed, now retired, female doctor is convicted of any offense, state prosecutors are not asking that a custodial sentence be imposed on her. A spokeswoman for the Dutch prosecution service, Sanna van der Harg, said, “We do not doubt the doctor’s honest intentions.” She added, “A crucial question in this case is how long a doctor should continue consulting a patient with dementia, if the patient at an earlier stage already requested euthanasia.” Nevertheless, Van der Harg admitted that in the current case “a more intensive discussion” should have taken place before ending the patient’s life.

The reason for the Dutch state’s reluctance to press a prison sentence for the doctor and its seeming ambivalence about bringing to court other such cases comes amid current widespread political and social acceptance of euthanasia in the Netherlands. The dead woman’s family, indeed, continues to approve the actions of the doctor who killed their elderly relative.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

Share with Friends: