Start News NL: Active euthanasia is also permitted for people with dementia

NL: Active euthanasia is also permitted for people with dementia

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Active euthanasia is also permitted in the Netherlands, according to a Supreme Court ruling, even for severely demented patients. A written living will will be recognized even if the patient is no longer accessible, the High Council judged today in The Hague. It is seen as a groundbreaking judgment for the further legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

The reason for this judgment was a highly controversial case. It was the first criminal trial against a doctor since legalization of euthanasia in 2002. The public prosecutor had asked the High Council for a basic judgment.

Fall from 2016 as a basis

The doctor had given active euthanasia to a woman with severe dementia in a nursing home in 2016. The 74-year-old had stated in writing that she wanted to die of dementia in the event of unbearable suffering. The doctor had given the patient a sleeping pill to initiate the process of euthanasia. However, the woman woke up again during the process, and relatives had to help so that the doctor could inject the life-ending medication.

The prosecutor had argued that the patient might have changed her mind during the process. They accused the doctor of not having interviewed the 74-year-old intensively again.

6,361 cases in the past year

The judges emphasized that doctors should act very carefully according to the law. In the Netherlands, death on request is only permitted if a patient is hopelessly ill, suffering unbearably and has asked for it several times.

The judges emphasize that this is not just about physical suffering. There could be signals „that the patient suffers from his advanced dementia so much that his suffering can be described as unbearable“. There were 6,361 active euthanasia cases in the Netherlands in 2019, including two patients with severe dementia.