A Dutch doctor was acquitted Wednesday in a landmark trial that prosecutors and physicians hope will help clarify how the country's 2002 euthanasia law can be applied to people with severe dementia. The doctor, who wasn't named in court, was cleared of any wrongdoing in carrying out euthanasia three years ago on a 74-year-old woman. The patient was given fatal doses of drugs despite some indications she might have changed her mind since declaring in writing that she wanted euthanasia. To carry out the euthanasia, the physician drugged the patient's coffee without her knowledge and then had family members restrain the woman while delivering the fatal injection, reports the AP.
The woman had renewed her living will about a year before she died, writing that she wanted to be euthanized "whenever I think the time is right." Later, the patient said several times in response to being asked if she wanted to die: "But not just now, it's not so bad yet!" In announcing the verdict, the court said the patient no longer recognized her own reflection in the mirror. The court ruled that in cases of euthanasia that were being performed on patients with severe dementia—and who'd earlier made a written request for euthanasia—the doctor "did not have to verify the current desire to die." Euthanasia cases among people with advanced dementia are extremely rare; there've been fewer than 20 cases since the country legalized the procedure.
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