Euthanasia Case Studies Netherlands

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"She does not need to be punished," Fikenscher said.

The daughter of the patient who died also strongly defended the doctor.

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.

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.

Agnes Van der Heide of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

"If you legalize on the broad basis (that) the Dutch have, then this increase is what you would expect," said Penney Lewis, co-director of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College London."Doctors become more confident in practicing euthanasia and more patients will start asking for it," she said.

"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.


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