The Dutch Prosecutor's Office has decided to take a geriatrician to trial for having practiced in 2016 a euthanasia skipping the requirements imposed by the Law, approved in 2002. It is the first time that a doctor responds to the Justice by a regulated practice, but that it maintains penalties of up to 12 years in prison when it is not proceeded properly. The patient in question, 74, had dementia, and prosecutors hope to clear up doubts about the ability to decide on their own deaths of people who have lost the notion of reality. 4.4% of the total deaths registered in the Netherlands in 2017 (150,027 people) were due to euthanasia.
The percentage of euthanasia It is official, and appears in the annual report published, jointly, by the five regional commissions that evaluate it in the Netherlands. The doctor who will go to trial worked in a nursing home, and was reprimanded in 2017 by the Disciplinary Board of the College of Physicians for going ahead when the patient could not indicate their wishes. The patient signed a statement lucidly saying that she wanted euthanasia if she was hospitalized in a center for seniors with Alzheimer's. However, he added that she would decide the right moment. The geriatrician has made it known, through her spokespersons, that she expects "clarity about the euthanasia requests signed by patients who are incapacitated".
When the 74-year-old woman ended up in a home like the one she described in her writing, she could no longer decide on her own whether or not she wanted euthanasia. Her dementia had advanced a lot, and the doctor considered it "useless" to ask her about the desire to die that she had expressed earlier. So he put a barbiturate in the coffee. It did not have the desired effect, because she woke up when she was administering the lethal substances prepared for euthanasia. She got very nervous and moved her arms, but the family held her until she calmed down. The doctor considered that her agitation was due to her mental state, and went ahead.
In 2017, the regional commissions that evaluate the euthanasia concluded that they had proceeded "without due care". The geriatrician "should have restrained herself, they said," because the statement signed by the woman asking for euthanasia was not categorical, but contradictory. " It is true that two independent colleagues had found that their suffering was unbearable. The commissions pointed out that the doctor had acted in the interest of her patient, and was not removed from her job because she had already retired when they examined her case.
The Dutch Law of 2002 Euthanasia is considered to be both that practiced by the doctor and the aid of suicide (the patient takes a substance prepared by the doctor) and the combination of both. It also contemplates the conscientious objection of the doctor. The patient must ask for it repeatedly and consciously, and suffer an incurable disease that causes unbearable suffering. The doctor, for his part, will make sure that the patient understands the transcendence of the situation and be lucid when asking for euthanasia. Two other specialists certify that these conditions are met before proceeding. The most frequent disease to ask for is cancer, but also Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and very serious heart and lung ailments.
Usually it is practiced by the family doctor, who is the closest, but there is also a private center, the Levenseindekliniek (Clinic for Dying). It is an ambulatory service with specialized doctors and nurses who analyze the patient's history, and if it meets the legal requirements, they practice it even if they have not followed its evolution. They receive more cases of mentally ill or mental illness than the rest of their colleagues. In 2016, the Ministry of Health added a new protocol that softens precisely the demands of acute dementias. Euthanasia can be applied in advanced stages provided that the claimant has signed, in possession of his mental faculties, and before his doctor, a formal statement that leaves no room for doubt.