Four criminal investigations into possible criminal euthanasia
8 maart 2018 - Openbaar Ministerie
The Board of Procurators General has decided that four criminal investigations will be instituted for possible criminal euthanasia, performed by two physicians. Two investigations are directed by the prosecutor's office of North Holland, one by the office of East Netherlands and the fourth by the prosecutor's office of The Hague.
Last year the regional review committee for euthanasia [Regionale Toetsingscommissie Euthanasie] (RTE) forwarded all four cases to the Public Prosecution Service [Openbaar Ministerie] (OM) for a criminal law review. This happens to every investigation when the RTE has concluded that a physician has not acted according to the standards for due care.
In the two cases investigated by a prosecutor in Noord-Holland, the same physician is involved. The investigation revolves around the death in May 2017 of a 67-year-old female, who lacked the capacity to express her own will and suffering from Alzheimer. The review committee found that the physician, at the time the life of the woman was terminated, was not able to ascertain if it was a voluntary and deliberate request for euthanasia because the living will had been drafted years before and had not been reconfirmed since. Furthermore the physician failed to substantiate why the suffering of the woman was unbearable.
Another case is about the termination of the life of an 84-year-old female in June last year. The woman regarded her life as hopeless because of several physical illnesses. The review committee considered, inter alia, that the physician could not have arrived at the conviction that other solutions to eliminate the suffering were lacking and that the suffering therefore was hopeless.
A public prosecutor of the prosecutor's office Oost-Nederland is investigating the euthanasia on a 72-year-old female in April 2017. She was suffering from metastasized cancer, all options for treatment had been exhausted and she regarded her suffering as unbearable because of the rapid deterioration of her physical condition. Two days before her life was terminated the woman lapsed into a coma that caused serious aphasia and alternating reduced consciousness. In this case the review committee found, inter alia, that the physician was not able to ascertain that the decision for euthanasia was a voluntary and well-considered decision. There was no written living will. According to the committee the physician could also not arrive at the conviction that her suffering was unbearable based on the facts and circumstances in the period immediately before the euthanasia.
A prosecutor of the Prosecution Service in The Hague has instituted an investigation into the death of an 84-year-old female in February last year. Her freedom of movement had been very much restricted by pulmonary emphysema. The woman had a euthanasia statement and had clearly expressed that she no longer wanted to live. She refused to undergo any further examinations or treatments. One of the conclusions of the review committee was that the physician concluded to easily that the suffering of his patient was hopeless
Based on the Instruction decision to prosecute regarding active termination of life at request (euthanasia and assisted suicide) the Board of Procurators General is the organ that decides on whether or not to prosecute the physician in euthanasia cases. According to the Board the conduct of the physicians in the four cases mentioned earlier raises such suspicions that a criminal investigation is appropriate. When these investigations have been completed the Board will decide for each case whether or not the physician will be prosecuted.
In 2017 the RTE forwarded twelve files to the Prosecution Service for a criminal law review. According to the RTE in all these cases all these the actions lacked due care, was not acted with due care. At the moment there are still two cases under review. The other ten cases have been reviewed and in the four cases mentioned above the decision was made to institute a criminal investigation, in the other six other cases it was not.
In September last year the Board announces that a public prosecutor in The Hague is conducting an investigation into a possibly criminal euthanasia from 2016 on a 74-year-old female who was seriously demented and legally incapable. On short notice the examining magistrate will hear witnesses in this case. Furthermore expert reports will be drawn up. As soon as the investigation is completed it will be decided whether or not the physician will be prosecuted and if he or she has to stand trial.
The decisions of the RTE in the above mentioned cases can be found on the site of the euthanasia committee, under the numbers: 2017 -31, 2017 - 73, 2017 - 79 and 2017 - 103.