Dutch Supreme Court expands euthanasia law for dementia patients

April 21 (UPI) -- The Netherlands' Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Dutch doctors may euthanize patients with severe dementia if at any time they gave written consent to do so.

Previously, doctors were required by law to have patients reconfirm their wish to be euthanized.


The Dutch court's ruling stemmed from the case of a nursing home doctor who was acquitted of murder in a lower court, for euthanizing a 74-year-old woman in 2016 based on a written directive she gave previously while still lucid.

The woman said she didn't want to be in a nursing home and wanted doctors to euthanize her when it was the "right time."

Public prosecutors charged the doctor, saying there were signs the woman changed her mind and didn't want to die.

"The court was of the opinion that the doctor acted carefully and was therefore not punishable," the high court said Tuesday, adding that "the court made no mistakes in its assessment."

The Dutch legislature passed legislation in 2001 making euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide legal. The law, which took effect the following year, applies to patients at least 12 years old who endure unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.


There were more than 6,000 cases of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in 2016, according to the Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committees.

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