For the first time ever, prosecutors in the Netherlands are launching a criminal investigation into a “possible punishable case of euthanasia” after a woman suffering from dementia was forcibly held down by family while a doctor administered a lethal dose of drugs.
The Daily Mail is reporting on the case of the 74 year-old woman with dementia whose name has not been released. She had written in an advance directive that she wanted to be killed if the disease became too severe, but whenever she was asked if she wanted to die yet, she would answer “Not now.”
“Nevertheless, after she was admitted to a care home its specialist doctor was persuaded by the Dutch woman’s husband that she wanted the lethal injection,” the Mail reports.
On the day she was scheduled to be killed, the doctor gave the woman a sedative in a cup of coffee. The doctor later explained that the reason she administered the drug in that way is because the patient “would probably have refused had she been asked to take the medication herself.”
However, the sedative had an “insufficient effect” which caused the doctor to give her an additional injection of the sedative about 40 minutes later.
This time, the drug worked, and as the woman became unaware of her surroundings, the doctor prepared a lethal dose of the drug thiopental.
According to a report by a Dutch euthanasia watchdog group, the Regional Euthanasia Review Committee, “When the physician tried to administer the thiopental, the patient sat up. This is what the physician had previously referred to as physical resistance. The family then held her and the physician quickly administered the rest of the euthanatic.”
The watchdog group condemned the doctor, saying that she could not have been sure the woman wanted to die and had “overstepped a boundary” when administering the lethal drug in spite of the woman’s resistance. By administering a sedative covertly in a cup of coffee, the physician “wanted to deprive the patient of the possibility to resist… [and then] when the patient did respond negatively, the physician wrongly failed to consider whether this could be interpreted as an important sign that she did not want a needle to be inserted,” the report stated.
Prosecutors in the Netherlands agreed with the report and are now launching a criminal investigation into a “possible punishable case of euthanasia,” adding: “There is a serious suspicion the physician committed a criminal offence.”
This case could be the first ever prosecution of a doctor over the treatment of a patient under the Netherlands’ euthanasia law.
Euthanasia has been permitted in the Netherlands since 2002 and is now responsible for three percent of all deaths in that country. Of that number, seven percent are done without the explicit request of the patient.
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