Netherlands: Doctors can end mentally incapacitated person’s life with previous consent
Doctors may end a mentally incapacitated person’s life where they have previously consented to assisted suicide, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands has ruled.
The ruling represents a major development of case law in the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal in certain limited circumstances since 2002.
The case originally arose after a 64-year-old doctor was prosecuted and acquitted last year for ending the life of an unnamed 74-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease.
The woman in question was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012 and subsequently wrote in a “living will” that she wanted assisted suicide before entering a care home.
A doctor took her life in 2016, prior to her entering care, based on this statement and with the approval of two independent doctors.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said doctors “may carry out a written request beforehand for euthanasia in people with advanced dementia”, as long as other statutory requirements have been met and the request was made before their disease progressed to the point that they could “no longer express their will”.