Euthanasia Case Studies Netherlands

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"We think the doctor has not acted carefully enough and thus passed a threshold.

But at the same time, we also say that this threshold is not very clear," said public prosecution spokeswoman Marilyn Fikenscher, underscoring the arguments that the doctor acted with good intentions.

The Netherlands was the world's first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002.

It can only be carried out under strict conditions set down in Dutch law.

A landmark euthanasia trial has opened in the Netherlands seeking to pinpoint what to do with dementia patients who stated their wish to die under certain circumstances but later might have had second thoughts.

The case in The Hague district court centres on a 74-year-old woman who was given fatal doses of drugs three years ago despite some indications she might have changed her mind.It is the first such case since the legalisation of euthanasia - the intentional ending of a life if suffering becomes overwhelming -so long as it is carried out by a physician adhering to strict conditions.The doctor is alleged to have put a sleeping drug into the elderly woman's coffee in the presence of the patient's relatives.Euthanasia involves doctors actively killing patients with an injection of drugs but, in assisted dying, patients are provided with a lethal solution that they must drink themselves. Steven Pleiter, a board member at the Levenseinde Kliniek end-of-life hospital, said the case should not give the impression that the Netherlands takes such life-and-death issues lightly."This is the first case that [has happened] in about 50,000 cases of euthanasia, and so there is a very careful practice in the Netherlands," Pleiter said."She does not need to be punished," Fikenscher said.The daughter of the patient who died also strongly defended the doctor.Yet contrary to early media reports -- which suggested that Pothoven had been euthanised -- her request for assistance in dying was refused.Doctors reportedly said that the teen was too young and needed to receive further treatment before being considered for euthanasia.The unidentified doctor in the case, a 68-year-old woman who has since retired, is accused of making insufficient efforts to find out whether the patient still wanted to die.She is charged with breaching the euthanasia law and, if the judge rules the request of the patient was insufficient, that charge could, in theory, become murder.

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