Bioethics News

Struggling woman with dementia euthanised in Netherlands

A Dutch euthanasia doctor has been rebuked by a Regional Review Committee after she gave a lethal injection to a demented patient who appeared to be struggling to stop the procedure.

The incident emerged when the Regional Review Committee released euthanasia case reports on January 1. This was Verdict 2016-85.

Here is what happened. An 80-year-old woman with dementia entered a nursing home because her husband could no longer care for her. When the woman was still lucid she expressed two wishes: (a) not to go into a “home for demented elderly” and (b) to be euthanised “when I myself find it the right time”. Only the second wish was honoured.

She was unhappy in the nursing home and wandered the corridors at night. After seven weeks of this, the nursing home doctor decided that she must be suffering unbearably. Based on her previous statements, the doctor decided that euthanasia was appropriate.

With members of her family in attendance, the doctor approached to give her a lethal injection. The woman was agitated, so the doctor slipped a sedative into her coffee. This did not work, so she gave her an injection. With all these drugs, the woman dosed off.

But when the needle for the lethal injection appeared, she started to struggle. The doctor had to ask the family members to hold her down so that she could continue with the injection. The woman died soon afterwards.

The review committee said the doctor acted in good faith, but that she had erred in several respects.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.