For the first time in the history of the Netherlands euthanasia regime, authorities will prosecute a doctor for breaching euthanasia guidelines when ending the life of a patient.
The Board of Procurators General -- a public prosecutor that oversees criminal investigations related to euthanasia -- said that it would pursue a case against a geriatrician who euthanised a women with advanced dementia in April 2016.
Following an investigation into the case, authorities concluded that the patient’s living will was “unclear and contradictory”. And although the woman had regularly stated that she wanted to die, on other occasions she had said that she did not to want to die. Prosecutors say the doctor should have checked with the woman whether she still had a death wish by discussing this with her.
Authorities also said the doctor had “overstepped a line” when ending the life of the patient. A report from the Regional Euthanasia Committees (RTE) stated that the doctor administered a sedative without the patient’s consent. The woman also woke up during an injection of the thiopental woke up and began to physically resist. The doctor had family members restrain the patient while the rest of the euthanasia agents were quickly administered.
The doctor was given a formal reprimand earlier this year after the case was highlighted by the RTE.
The doctor’s spokesman told Dutch television channel NOS that she welcomed "further guidance on the question of the wishes of incapacitated patients", but "regrets" that she is being prosecuted over the April 2016 case.
Authorities say that they expect to release the findings of two more criminal investigations related to euthanasia in the next few weeks.
Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister, told Dutch television channel NOS that he did not think the case was a reason to change the law. Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002.
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