In the Netherlands, the Dutch medical complaints board has formally reprimanded a doctor who performed euthanasia on a patient with severe dementia. Diagnosed five years earlier, the 74-year-old woman had issued advance directives explaining that she did not want to go into a home and that she wanted to die when she felt the time was right.
As her health was deteriorating, she was placed in a care home where she became anxious and aggressive and took to wandering the corridors at night. The doctor decided that this woman’s suffering was no longer tolerable and justified her wish to die. She put a sedative in the woman’s coffee, which is against the law. She also inserted a drip into the woman’s arm despite her protests and asked her family to hold her down. This is also against [SA1] current directives (see Netherlands: a woman who “underwent euthanasia against her will”).
The Dutch medical complaints board announced that the doctor, who has since retired, committed an error in not discussing the decision with the patient. She has already been officially reprimanded by the complaints board for having violated directives and the public prosecutor is also investigating the case. Once the enquiry has been completed, the doctor, who specialised in geriatric care, may face criminal prosecution (see Euthanasia: Criminal investigation in the Netherlands against a doctor).
In 2016, the Departments of Justice and Health slightly relaxed guidelines on the practice of euthanasia for individuals presenting severe dementia to allow them to die even if they are incapable of conveying their own feelings. However, this is subject to an anticipated declaration given to the treating physician before the condition prevents the patient from making their wishes known.