Swedish doctor suspected of baby euthanasia killing

7th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The woman reportedly removed the child who was born with irreversible brain damage from a life support system after consulting with the family.

Stockholm -- A doctor at a Swedish children's hospital suspected of an infant euthanasia killing was remanded in custody Friday, her lawyer said, in a case that has raised concerns in Sweden's medical circles.

"After a three-hour court session the judge placed her in custody for one week," defence lawyer Bjoern Hurtig told AFP.

Other people were to be questioned in the case, including a nurse, he said.

"I don't want to speculate on the motive. But it's possible that this is a case of a mercy killing," prosecutor Elisabeth Brandt told Swedish public radio.

Euthanasia is illegal in Sweden. But legal procedures against doctors are very rare in the Scandinavian country, where cases of malpractice usually go before the National Board of Health and Welfare.

Hurtig could not confirm whether the case was a legal first.

A decision on whether the doctor will be indicted is expected next week.

The paediatrician, who is in her 50s, has denied the accusations. She risks six to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

A district court in the Stockholm suburb of Solna said it had decided to remand her in custody after reading the coroner's report, according to which the baby received excessive doses of morphine, used to relieve pain, and thiopental, administered as an anaesthetic.

According to daily Svenska Dagbladet, the woman, whose name was not disclosed, removed the child from a life support system after consulting with the family.

The death occurred on September 20, 2008 at the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital, located in Solna, Hurtig said.

The baby was born very premature. It suffered irreversible brain damage and died after three months.

Friday's court hearing was held behind closed doors.

"My client denied everything ... This is a woman who wants to save life, not take life. So she is totally devastated by these accusations," Hurtig said.

He described her as "the most qualified doctor in Sweden in child medicine."

"She has been a doctor for 25 years, she's worked for Astrid Lindgren for several years. She is highly qualified, she has worked abroad in Somalia for the United Nations," he said.

The case has sparked concern among her peers. A number of operations have been postponed as doctors suddenly fear the legal consequences, according to media reports.

"The medical profession is not easy. The decisions we have to take as doctors are often difficult and complex," the head of the Swedish Medical Association, Thomas Flodin, said in a statement.

"It is now important to clarify the guidelines for doctors when it comes to severe illnesses that can lead to decisions about life and death," he said.

He said his association had contacted Swedish authorities to initiate a dialogue.

"Doctors and patients must feel confident that the current guidelines for medical decisions, which are based on science and proven experience, are still valid so that the profession can maintain high quality and patient safety," he added.

Delphine Touitou/AFP/Expatica

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