Prosecutor takes dementia patient's euthanasia to Supreme Court

The Public Prosecutor filed cassation at the Supreme Court in the case of a nursing home doctor who was recently acquitted of murder for performing euthanasia on a woman with advanced dementia. There are legal questions the Prosecutor wants answered in this case, but it does not want to put the doctor through an appeal so is therefore going directly to the Supreme Court, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in a statement.

This case revolves around the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman with advanced dementia in April of 2016. The woman had written an advanced directive stating that she wanted euthanasia if she was admitted to a nursing home due to her dementia and that she wanted to determine the right time. But once she was in a nursing home, the woman gave mixed signals about her wish to die. In close consultation with the woman's family, and after two independent doctors determined that she was suffering unbearably, the nursing home doctor performed euthanasia.

The Public Prosecutor argued that the doctor had not met all due care requirements for euthanasia in this case. According to the Prosecutor, the doctor should have spoken further with the patient about the termination of her life. The Prosecutor demanded no punishment against the doctor, but wanted her convicted of murder. 

But the court in The Hague disagreed and acquitted the doctor in a ruling earlier this month. The court considered it proven that the doctor ended the woman's life at her explicit and serious request by performing euthanasia. 

"The OM does not agree with the judgment of the court, but also realize how burdensome the case is for the nursing home doctor", the Prosecutor said. The OM agrees that the facts have been established, but still wants clarity on a number of legal questions. Which is why the Prosecutor is taking this case directly to the Supreme Court. "This spares the doctor from facing appeal proceedings."

"With this case, the OM foremost wants to gain clarity on how doctors should deal with euthanasia on incapacitated patients. The OM wants legal certainty to be created for doctors and patients about this important issue in euthanasia legislation and medical practice. It is also important for the social and political debate to get as much clarity as possible about the interpretation of the law." the Prosecutor said.