Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(3) August 2020

Dutch doctors to euthanise dementia patients without explicit consent

On 22 April 2020 we heard that Doctors in the Netherlands will now be permitted to euthanise vulnerable dementia patients, even if the patient explicitly expresses a wish not to die, a Dutch Supreme Court has ruled. Michael Robinson, SPUC Director of Communications said: “Vulnerable patients who deserve care and compassion are now to be put down like animals. This is a system open to abuse and exploitation.”

Previously, dementia patients would need to verify previously given consent to euthanasia. However, the Dutch Supreme Court has now ruled that as long as a dementia patient has previously provided written consent to euthanasia, doctors are permitted to kill them, even if the patient now resists.

Mr Robinson said: “The lives of vulnerable people are now even more at risk with growing pressure to sign advance directives that will one day ensure death at the hands of their doctor.

“The tragic stories seeping out of the Netherlands highlight the true and vicious nature of medically assisted death. Patients are entitled to care, respect and basic human dignity. Nations which exercise the deadly practice of euthanasia, inevitably introduce the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable of patients.”

Held down and injected with lethal drugs

The Supreme Court’s decision has arrived follow­ing a case involving an 80 year-old woman, who was placed in a care home after her dementia became so advanced that her husband could no longer cope with care at home. She was distressed and frightened, and after a few weeks, the doctor at the home determined that she was suffering unbearably. He concluded that she was not mentally competent, but that an earlier statement in her will that she wanted euthanasia "when I myself find it the right time" justified killing her.

The now retired doctor first gave the woman a sedative in a cup of coffee. The woman tried to get up when the doctor injected the lethal drugs, but the doctor continued while the woman's family held her down

In November 2018, The Dutch Public Prosecution Service decided to prosecute the doctor, following a criminal investigation. The Prosecution did not ask that the doctor be punished – rather the trial was for the purpose of answering questions about the legality of euthanasia on dementia patients.

The trend to ‘mercy kill’ dementia patients is intensifying.

Killing those who suffer from neurological conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has become common practice throughout some European countries. Since the Netherlands legalised euthanasia in 2001, the numbers of dementia sufferers who are euthanised by their doctor has soared.

This article was first published by SPUC on 22nd April 2020. We are grateful for permission to reproduce it. What is especially disturbing is the reality that a lady who resisted euthanasia ended up being held down and restrained by her family to enable her killing.