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Dutch prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to bring clarity on how doctors should deal with incapacitated patients

Two weeks after the court in first instance ruled that the nursing home doctor who applied euthanasia to an elderly dementia sufferer, met all the requirements of the euthanasia law, Dutch prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to rule further on this case, in order to gain clarity on how doctors should deal with incapacitated patients.

In a ruling earlier this month, trial judges at The Hague District Court found that the female patient had expressly requested euthanasia at an earlier stage in her disease and the doctor had acted lawfully. The doctor had consulted other doctors and the patient’s family, and the euthanasia request was made voluntarily, the judges found.

By going straight to the Supreme Court, prosecutors took the unusual step of passing over the appeal stage of legal proceedings – which could have
sought punishment. The Supreme Court will give an opinion that will set a legal precedent. The goal of this procedure is to gain clarity on how doctors should deal with euthanasia on incapacitated patients, the public prosecutioner said in a statement.

The trial centered around a 74-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer?s disease four years before her death. The patient had a certified living will stating her wish for euthanasia if her condition were to worsen significantly. The doctor carried out the mercy killing with the consent and support of the woman?s family, but the patient was no longer capable of giving her consent because of her advanced dementia.

It is seen as a test for the legal boundaries of euthanasia in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide and mercy killing is allowed by law under restricted conditions when overseen by medical professionals. The conditions include that a patient is experiencing unbearable suffering with no hope of recovery, and expresses a wish to die while of sound mind.

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