The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

Dutch doctor faces prosecution in landmark euthanasia case

A doctor is facing prosecution at the District Court of The Hague for administering a lethal drug to a 74-year-old woman with severe dementia. This lawsuit is the first of its kind since the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2002.

The patient lived in a nursing home and according to the BBC, prosecutors said she “had regularly stated that she wanted to die, [but] on other occasions she had said that she did not want to die.” The patient had reportedly signed a living will five years earlier electing for euthanasia if she was mentally competent at the time of implementation.

The doctor in this case reportedly testified that she had spoken to her patient three times about her desire to die but not about her will as ‘she could not remember anything about it’. The patient reportedly suffered severe long and short term memory problems and could no longer recognize her husband.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands only under strictly regulated circumstances including the patient experiencing unbearable pain but being capable of making an informed decision. Since the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands, its administration on patients with severe dementia has been extremely rare with only two cases being reported in the last year.