Dutch launch mobile mercy killing teams

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Six specialised teams, each with a doctor, will criss-cross the Netherlands as of Thursday to carry out euthanasia at the home of patients whose own doctors refuse to do so, a pro-mercy killing group said.

"From Thursday, the Levenseindekliniek (Life-end clinic) will have mobile teams where people who think they comply with the criteria for euthanasia can register," Right-to-die NL (NVVE) spokeswoman Walburg de Jong said.

"If they comply, the teams will carry out the euthanasia at patients' homes should their normal doctors refuse to help them," she said.

Made up of a specially-trained doctor and nurse who will work part time for the group, called the Life-end clinic, teams will be able to visit patients all over the Netherlands, De Jong said.

The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in April 2002 and strict criteria regulates how such mercy killings can be carried out. Patients must be mentally alert when making the request to die.

Patients also have to face a future of "unbearable, interminable suffering" and both the patient and the doctor -- who have to obtain a second opinion -- before euthanasia is carried out, must agree there is no cure.

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

But the plan, which received the thumbs-up from Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers in the Dutch parliament, has met with scepticism from one of the Netherlands' largest medical lobbies.

The Royal Dutch Society of Doctors (KNMG) said it doubted whether the "euthanasia doctors" would be able to form a close-enough relationship with a patient to make a correct assessment.

Yearly, some 3,100 mercy killings are carried out in the Netherlands said De Jong, adding that the NVVE have already been phoned by 70 potential patients since the plan was announced in early February.

The NVVE said its teams were expected to receive around 1,000 assisted suicides requests per year.

© 2012 AFP

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