Dementia patients seeking “assisted suicide” in the Netherlands will be allowed to be sedated before they are euthanized if there is a possibility they will become “agitated, excited or aggressive,” new medical guidelines on euthanasia say. Further, “it is not necessary for the physician to agree with the patient on the time or manner of euthanasia.”
The medical guidelines had been changed by the Euthanasia Control Board following a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court. Judges had acquitted a doctor of murder in April 2020 who had previously secretly sedated a patient before killing her.
The former nursing home doctor was convicted of murder after she “euthanized” her 74-year-old patient with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The patient had previously indicated in a directive that she wished to seek euthanasia when she felt the time was right. However, at the nursing home, the woman reportedly expressed several times when asked that she did not want to die.
Nevertheless, the nursing home doctor secretly mixed a sedative into the patient’s coffee and then killed the woman with a lethal injection. The woman had still resisted the injection despite the sedative. Her son-in-law then pushed her down, thus enabling the doctor to administer the lethal drug. The doctor was later convicted of murder.
The Supreme Court, however, reversed the ruling. A living will would not have to be interpreted literally if the patient was no longer capable of giving consent and the circumstances of the assisted suicide did not match the possible scenario.
The chairman of the Euthanasia Control Committee, Jacob Kohnstamm, praised the new version of the euthanasia guidelines as a reassurance for the medical conscience: “Doctors now have to be less afraid of putting themselves in a firing line by assisting in dying. They don’t have to be as afraid of the judiciary. Or of the oversight committee.”