DUTCH COURT DEMANDS MORE TESTIMONY IN LANDMARK EUTHANASIA CASE
Stephanie van den Berg
THE HAGUE, May 8 (AFP) – A Dutch appeals court said Tuesday it would hear further expert evidence before ruling on the case of a doctor who helped a healthy 86-year-old commit suicide because he was “tired of living”.
The court said it would hear evidence from a doctor and a university professor before handing down its verdict in the trial of doctor Phillip Sutorius.
The witnesses will testify about “aspects vital to the case”, the court said.
In April, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to authorise mercy killings, albeit under specific conditions.
Under the law, euthanasia is allowed on three conditions: that the patient’s condition is incurable, that the patient is of sound mind and fully agrees to the procedure, and that his or her suffering is considered unbearable.
Sutorius gave 86-year-old Edward Brongersma, who had no diagnosed illness, a lethal cocktail of drugs, which the former senator administered himself in April 1998.
At that time euthanasia was not legal in the Netherlands but unoffically allowed under the same conditions determined in the April law.
The case before the court now could create a legal basis to widen the definition of unbearable suffering in the legislation to include elderly people who feel they are done with life.
Brongersma said he was “tired of living”.
“I have nobody to share the void: all my relatives, all my friends and acquaintances have died. The world has become so cold,” he wrote to his doctor.
“After due consideration, I ask you to practise euthanasia . When I think of the end, I feel impatience,” he said in excerpts of the letter published in the NRC-Handelsblad paper.
The case generated public debate in the Netherlands about the definition of unbearable suffering. A lower court found the doctor was not guilty of violating the euthanasia law, ruling that being tired of life constituted unbearable suffering.
The lower court’s decision not to prosecute Sutorius sparked controversy in the Netherlands. Justice Minister Benk Korthals and many other politicians openly criticized it.
The public prosecutor appealed the verdict. In his closing argument chief prosecutor Egbert Myjer said that suffering could and should be medically determined.
In the appeal, Myjer did not ask for a prison sentence for the doctor but he does want him to be found guilty. “It is time to set boundaries” in the laws governing euthanasia , he said.
Myjer did not ask for imprisonment because Sutorius followed the procedure outlined in the law and asked a colleague for a second opinion.
The verdict is expected to be handed down sometime after the northern hemisphere summer.
Courtesy of John Hofsess at “Nothing But the News” RTD Mailing List