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Dutch doctor cleared despite euthanising patient against her will

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A Dutch doctor who held down a patient and euthanised her against her will did not break the law, a panel has ruled.

The Regional Review Committee in the Netherlands concluded that the female doctor had "acted in good faith", even though the patient, who suffered from dementia, struggled when the doctor tried to insert the intravenous drip. 

The Committee decided that the case should be brought to court, so that that judges can confirm that other doctors who act in good faith when euthanising people with dementia will not be prosecuted.

Since euthanasia was introduced in the Netherlands 17 years ago, the number of patients dying by euthanasia has risen steeply. In 2006, 1,923 people were euthanised in the Netherlands, compared to 5,306 in 2014

Expressed clear desire to live

The unnamed patient in this case was over 80 years old and suffered from dementia. 

Although she had reportedly previously stated a wish to die by euthanasia when the 'time was right', she indicated a desire to live by struggling against the doctor, when she doctor attempted to administer the lethal injection.

She had been placed in a nursing home when her husband found it too difficult to care for her. Case notes showed that the woman showed signs of anger and fear, and would wander around the nursing home at night.

'I don’t want to die'

The nursing home’s senior doctor concluded that the time was 'now right' for the woman to be euthanised although she did not herself express this. 

Several days before she was killed, she had stated repeatedly "I don’t want to die".

On the day of her death, the doctor put a drug in the patient’s coffee to calm her – without telling her what she was doing. But as the doctor began to insert the drip, the patient awoke and fought the doctor. Family members had to restrain her as the rest of the drip was administered. 

'Crossed the line'

The Review Committee concluded that the female doctor "crossed the line" by putting sleeping medication in the patient’s coffee, and that she should have stopped when the woman resisted.

But the Committee Chairman Jacob Kohnstamm said that because he was convinced that the patient had "acted in good faith", she was not prosecuted. 

Jacob Kohnstamm said he is in favour of a trial "not to punish the doctor, who acted in good faith and did what she had to do, but to get judicial clarity over what powers a doctor has when it comes to the euthanasia of patients suffering from severe dementia."

'Sends wrong message to society'

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, described the case as "a tragedy"

"This story is an example of the risks that the Netherlands’ liberal euthanasia laws are placing on the elderly, the sick and the vulnerable. 

"It should never be for a doctor to decide on a patient’s behalf whether that patient wishes to live or die. 

"Despite this tragedy, this doctor has not been charged. This sends the wrong message to Dutch society and indicates that others may carry out similar actions in future without facing prosecution.

"The Netherlands is increasingly embracing a culture of death, when instead it should be promoting life and doing more to protect it. It is vital that we firmly resist any such policies being implemented in the UK."

Related links: 
Female Dutch doctor drugged her patient's coffee then asked her family to hold her down as she fought not be killed (Mail)
Doctor reprimanded for 'overstepping mark' during euthanasia on dementia patient (Dutch News)
Panel clears Dutch doctor who asked family to hold patient down as she carried out euthanasia procedure (Telegraph) 

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