First euthanasia in Netherlands of severe dementia victim

9th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A woman with advanced Alzheimer's disease has been euthanised in the Netherlands, a first in a country that requires patients to be fully mentally alert to request to die, activists said Wednesday.

The 64-year-old woman died in March after being sick "for a very long time," said a spokesman for the Right to Die-NL (NVVE) group.

She had insisted "for several years" that she wanted to be euthanised, added spokesman Walburg de Jong.

"It is really a very important step -- before, patients dying by euthanasia were at really very early stages of dementia, which was not the case with this woman," de Jong said.

Euthanasia is allowed in the Netherlands only if the patient suffers intolerable pain due to an illness diagnosed as incurable by a doctor. The patient must give authorisation while in full control of his mental faculties.

"This is also a message for doctors since they often refuse to euthanise people in advanced stages of dementia even though they have expressly asked for it," de Jong said.

The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in April 2002.

Each euthanasia case is reported to one of five special commissions, each made up of a doctor, a jurist and an ethical expert charged with verifying that all required criteria had been respected.

It was not immediately clear whether the case of the woman in question had gone through such a commission.

Dutch courts have in the past jailed people for contravening the criteria for assisted suicide.

© 2011 AFP

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