The Dutch doctor who performed euthanasia on a woman suffering from severe dementia, has been acquitted of murder. The court in The Hague ruled on Sept. 11 that the doctor hasn’t broken the Dutch euthanasia law.

The trial began three weeks ago when, for the first time in Dutch history, a doctor was put on trial after performing euthanasia on a patient. Prosecutors said the 74-year-old doctor was guilty of murder.

In 2016, she performed euthanasia on a woman suffering from severe dementia. After being diagnosed with the condition, the patient had written down a living will in which she stated that she wanted to make use of the legal right to have euthanasia performed on her were she to end up in a nursing home. However, during the last days of her life, the patient gave mixed signals about wanting to die. Prosecutors stated that the now-retired doctor should have spoken with the patient about her wish to die.

The doctor has now been acquitted of breaking the Dutch euthanasia law in the landmark case. The judge ruled that the living will written by the patient four years earlier had sufficed.

Mentally competent?

In a reaction to the Dutch Catholic newspaper Katholiek Nieuwsblad Martin Buijsen, professor in health law, said that the Dutch law is hard to explain.

“Murder and homicide are punishable by law. An exception has been made for euthanasia, which is legal under certain strict requirements. After performing euthanasia, a doctor draws up a file, which is then checked by a regional commission,” he said.

In 2018, euthanasia was reported 6,000 times, 146 for a person suffering from dementia.

“144 of these patients were suffering from an early stage of dementia. Euthanasia was performed on them without any legal problems,” Buijsen said.

“In the other two cases, the patient was suffering from severe dementia. Both of them had written a living will in which they stated that they wanted euthanasia to be performed on them if they were to end up in a certain stage of the disease,” he said.

But, continued the professor, “At what point is a person no longer mentally competent? A person suffering from dementia may have lucid moments and is still able to change his or her mind. The term ‘mentally competent’ is not all white or all black.”

Official warning

The doctor on trial had already received an official warning by the Dutch medical disciplinary board. The court’s verdict doesn’t change that fact. This means doctors themselves follow stricter rules than the Dutch law prescribes.

“The verdict of the medical disciplinary board means that her colleagues think that in this case the doctor failed to do the right thing. They advised other doctors to verify with the patient if they still wish to die,” Buijsen said.
According to Buijsen, the whole trial has always been a matter of principle, and also a test case.

“Prosecutors asked the judge to come up with a verdict but were not seeking punishment for the doctor. What they wanted was for the court to stipulate clearer boundaries for the euthanasia law. The judge ruled that there is no legal duty for an extra living will to be written by the patient. This means the uncertainty remains, because in practice nothing has changed with this verdict,” he said.

A morally impossible thing to ask

“The euthanasia law dates back to 2002 and was meant, for example, for cancer patients or patients affected by ALS who were in excruciating pain with no hope of ever recovering. The current law was not made with dementia in mind. The Dutch federation of medical practitioners is working on a declaration for euthanasia in cases of dementia, with clearer standards for doctors,” Buijsen said.
According to the professor, the current euthanasia law is making it impossible for doctors to function well.

“The patient places his or her faith in the doctor’s hands. The doctor then needs to decide if a patient is allowed to die, not too early in the disease process, but not too late either. Think what we’re asking of our doctors. It is a morally impossible thing to ask.”

This article was translated for Crux by Susanne Kurstjens-van den Berk.


I agree with euthanasia under strictly controlled regimes.

I have watched parishioners die of horrible ddiseases like Motor Nurone Disease where tthey gradually died by drowning in their own saliva.

Of course I believe life is the most precious commodity on earth.

But when all quality of life is gone and there is only pain, suffering, decay and deat I do not believe that God demands utter suffering and utter pain.

Jesus did enough barbaric suffering for us all on the cross.

He does not demand utter Calvary from every human being.

I personally hope not to opt for euthanasia.

As a Christian I want to ride the bucking bronco to the end.

But I not believe everyone has the capacity for that.

I don’t even know, when it comes to the bit, that I will have it.


My living will stipulates that if I’ve been offered, and refused or made no response, to the offer of a Black Bush, pint of Guinness, or chicken tikka masala, then pull the plugs and let me go. Reality, for me anyway, is to leave such decision making to those I trust, having left them clear expression of my wishes, in essence, not to be artificially kept “alive” (and I question the accuracy/reliability/relevance) of that word when I’m no longer capable.


MMM. If that should be the case and there is any Black Bush left perhaps you could bequeath it to me in your Will. Cheers


Would be happy to DD, but with a family like mine:no chance of any left.
I’ve three bottles of Aran Founders Reserve single malt laid by for first family wake. Just hope it’s not mine! Cheers.


Pat, I quote from your comment “Of course I believe life is the most precious commodity on earth.”
What a strange expression. You are a true child of the era. Human life a commodity????
Human life is God’s precious gift, not a commodity which we can buy, sell or control. You betray your moral bankruptcy with such a pathetic statement.


Another word for commodity is asset.
I believe that life is a gift from God and a fundamental asset too.
You are arguing about words and ascribing a meaning to my word that I did not intend


10.49: Pat, language and words are very important. We must be clear about the SANCTITY OF LIFE. We cannot equivocate around the meaning of words. Like in the abortion debate the language used by pro choicers camouflaged the real meaning of abortion by referring to the unborn child as a cluster of cells and using phrases like “bodily autonomy, “my body, “my rights” – I even heard the word commodity used in relation to the unborn child. Now we have you referencing life as a “commodity”. The gift of life is not just a commodity, not just an asset either. The gift of life is the most precious GIFT. PURE GIFT. If we fail to acknowledge the uniqueness, preciousness and sanctity of life, we are losing our moral and ethical parameters. Life will be seen simply as a disposable commodity, a throwaway “thing” when we have or see no value in it from conception to natural death. Then our commodities can be discarded and obliterated likevwaste paper. While there are people who have horrible sufferings, we still have to be very clear in our moral and ethical principles of the paramountcy of THE GIFT OF LIFE…….


I agree that language is important

I also think that we should not ascribe meanings to words that were not meant.

I still believe, that in some cases, u der a tight regime euchanasos is moral.

I imagine we will have to agree to differ.


10.49: You are often very poor at expressing yourself Pat. In this case your use of the word ‘commodity’ is very telling and most unfortunate!! I, as a human being am not a commodity nor an assets. There are things that are dispensible and disposable when we no longer have usevfor them or when they get in the way!!!


From Anon@11:48’s comment, and subsequent ones I’ve been thinking about the perspective of those proclaiming the “sanctity ” of life.
To what extent do we all have an egocentric view of the world, our part in it, and an over inflated view of our own significance? Could that influence our perspectives to think of our own life, and therefore all life, as much more important than the reality. Perhaps in the ‘great scheme ‘ of humanoid evolvement over the last couple of million years in an earth billions of years older, we are, as individuals, completely insignificant, yet ascribe ourselves, our life, and all human life, undue importance. It’s as if Earth only exists because of and for us, it’s human inhabitants.
Considerations like this do not fit comfortably with many followers of religion. It is more reassuring to understand our lives in a quasi static God centered universe: one of order and promise just so long as we ‘keep our noses clean’ and avoid all that forbidden fruit.


A sure if I was a dog or a horse there’d be no problem be hi. All life is precious. People’s in the image of God have been given great power but. We talk about end of life. Can we be trusted to act for good hi.
Were not managing great at respecting th living. Start as ya mean to go on hi


It’s high time Hoban was told to f*** off with himself. The man is a notorious bully. The tired old wannabe bishop should be getting ready for the hour of his death and his judgement.


Pat has been honest and therefore faithful to the essence of the Priesthood. He does actual good in the world unlike the keyboard warriors among us.


3.39: Really? Many, many priests are fastidious in their ministry. We only see what we want to see and hear onky what we want to hear. There is a wider narrative of daily good works being carried out by priests beyond the bias and cynicism of this blog. Sorry to burst your wee little bubble….


3.39: I have no doubt about Pat’s well intentioned ministry and his good works. He is to be admired despite all the critucisms, some of which are legitimate. Pat knows the witness of good work by many clerics of all denominations. But we must also remember the magnificent witness by lay people in their parishes. They are very often overlooked in the petty jealousies and squabbles between some clerics who use this blog to “get at each other”. That is petty and infantile. Just and honest criticisms should always be welcomed but we should always recognise the baptismal priesthood of all the people of God. When we do this we get better respect, co-operation, meaningful dialogue and more fruitful ministry.


I’m a great believer that if one is over 75 and requests it or if one shows signs of dependency on others then a wee jag on the arse should be administered.
This would free up younger family members to get on with living a quality life and what’s more it would save the government a fortune in pension payments. The money could be put into the health service to improve medical care and enhance treatments and research.


Pat, I came on to see about Fr Murray and there was nothing today. But wanting to check all previous comments I discovered that they have all been removed, as has his picture. Have you been silenced by his solicitors? What’s happened?


You would be better saying your prayers than looking for gossip on the blog. Is that all you came on here for as you claim? Say 100 Hail Marys and we will say no more about it.


Yes, mega gossip alert @9.30pm. I don’t think 100 Hail Marys covers it. Go and crotchet instead and look out from behind your net curtains,


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