THE HAGUE, Sept 12 -- A court in The Hague has acquitted a Dutch doctor of murdering a patient, stating that the termination of the life of the severely demented patient was carried out carefully enough, Xinhua news agency reported.
The public prosecutor had demanded a conviction for murder against the retired female doctor. The prosecutor did not demand a prison sentence, but wanted it to be clarified how the euthanasia law applies to patients suffering from dementia.
The verdict in the landmark case was unique as this was the first time since the introduction of the Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act of 2002 -- in which euthanasia was legalised under certain conditions -- that a doctor who believed to have committed euthanasia was prosecuted.
The 74-year-old Alzheimer patient had signed a euthanasia statement, but later gave varying signals about her death wish, although she repeated many times to the doctor that she wanted to die.
After two independent doctors had declared that the patient suffered unbearable pain, the doctor decided, after consultation with the family, to end her life, without informing the woman, because the doctor found that the patient was not able anymore to answer that question.
The public prosecutor argued that it was murder because the doctor should have talked to the patient about the eventual termination of life, and that as a result, the legal requirements for care providers would not have been met.
According to the judges, the doctor acted lawfully in performing the euthanasia. Refusing to do so would have undermined the patient's wish expressed in statement before she became deeply demented, they said.