The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Tuesday, April 21, that it is lawful for doctors to euthanize patients with severe dementia, provided that the patient had expressed a desire to be euthanized while still legally capable of doing so. 

Lower courts had previously ruled that a doctor had not acted improperly when he euthanized a 74-year-old woman with advanced dementia, even though the woman had to be repeatedly sedated and physically restrained during the procedure. The case was sent to the Supreme Court for further clarification of the country’s euthanasia law, which permits doctors to kill patients considered to be in “unbearable suffering.” 

Per Dutch law, euthanasia is only legal for those with dementia if they had written or discussed an advanced directive with their doctor. 

“For some people, the prospect of ever suffering from dementia may be sufficient reason to make an advance directive (living will). This can either be drawn up independently or discussed first with the family doctor. A physician can perform euthanasia on a patient with dementia only if such a directive exists, if statutory care is taken and if, in his opinion, the patient is experiencing unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement,” says the Dutch government’s website. 

The woman who resisted her euthanization had written an advanced directive four years prior, requesting the procedure in lieu of being put in a nursing home. In the directive, she had said she wished to “be able to decide while still in my senses and when I think the time is right.” 

Prosecutors argued that her attempt to fight off the doctor indicated that she could have changed her mind, but was unable to verbally communicate.  

Read more at Catholic News Agency

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