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Expected verdict in an unprecedented euthanasia case in the Netherlands


A doctor is accused of killing a patient with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, without being sufficiently sure of her consent.

The judges in charge of the trial of the doctor accused of having killed a patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease, without having sufficiently secured her consent. In The Hague, The Netherlands, August 26th. Aleks Furtula / AP

This is an unprecedented case in the first country to have legalized euthanasia. A Dutch court is set to hand down its verdict on Wednesday, September 11, in the trial of a doctor accused of killing a patient with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, with little assurance of her consent . Aged 74, the patient initially expressed her desire to be helped to end her life. But she would have subsequently shown mixed signals about her desire to die.

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Executing at the time in a retirement home, the doctor, a woman whose identity was not disclosed, is accused of "assuming that the lady still wanted to die without checking that with her" after the appearance of the neurodegenerative disease.

The prosecution is demanding that the defendant, now 68 years old and retired, be found guilty of practicing a euthanasia procedure without complying with the strict rules. However, no sentence was required against her, the prosecution not doubting that she acted with the "best intentions" , even if he considers that she should have had a "deeper" discussion with the patient, "Unable to express one's will" at the time of the facts.

4% of deaths in 2018

This is the first case of its kind in the Netherlands, which became in 2002 the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia, followed shortly after by Belgium. In this case, the public prosecutor seeks first of all to clarify the right of people with dementia to decide their own fate, an issue to which the law does not offer a definite answer.

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Euthanasia is permitted under Dutch law only under strict conditions. At least two doctors must certify that there is no other reasonable solution for the patient, and that his suffering is unbearable and without any hope of improvement.

In 2018, 6,126 people decided to use euthanasia in the Netherlands, or 4% of all deaths in the country, according to the latest figures from the Regional Euthanasia Surveillance Committee.

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In a report to the prosecutor's office, the committee recounted the testimony of the offending doctor who said that he had put Dormicum - a product that allows him to fall asleep quickly - in the patient's cafe. After showing signs of rejection, she was then held on her bed, including by her husband and child, while she was given a fatal injection.

"We ask for jurisprudence"

When she learned that she had Alzheimer's, the patient wrote a written statement demanding that she be euthanized rather than being placed in a specialized retirement home, prosecutors said.

But, according to Dutch NOS public television and radio, she also said she wanted to decide when she died as long as she "still has all her wits" . According to NOS, a geriatric doctor later found that she met the requirements for euthanasia. Two independent doctors had confirmed this diagnosis, as required by law.

"A crucial question in this case is how long a doctor should continue to seek the opinion of a patient with dementia, if that patient had already claimed euthanasia at an earlier stage," said the doctor. Public Prosecutor Sanna van der Harg shortly after an audience in late August. "The law does not give a clear answer, which is why we are now asking for jurisprudence in this case. "

Source: lemonde

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