Dutch doctor who euthanized woman without final consent defends decision

Dutch doctor who euthanized woman without final consent defends decision

Credit: Oleksandr_Lysenko / Shutterstock.
Credit: Oleksandr_Lysenko / Shutterstock.

.- A doctor in the Netherlands who euthanized a woman with advanced Alzheimer’s, despite the woman saying she did not want to be killed, maintains that she made the right decision.

“I believed that her suffering was truly awful and I knew that it could last for a long time,” retired geriatric doctor Marinou Arends told Nieuwsuur television program in a new interview.

Arends – whose identity is only being made public – was cleared of murder in a case involving the 2016 death of a 74-year-old patient with serious dementia.

Euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands in 2002. The procedure is available for terminally ill patients who experience unbearable suffering and face no foreseeable improvement. Under the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act, patients are required to give consent in writing and persistently over time.

The patient in question suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. When she was diagnosed in 2012, she requested the procedure occur at a time she deemed appropriate and before she was placed in a nursing home.

“I want to be able to decide (when to die) while still in my senses and when I think the time is right,” she told the public broadcaster NOS, according to Courthouse News.

Four years later, the woman was admitted to a care home in The Hague, where she was placed under Arends’ care.

A second specialist agreed that she was suffering unbearably. However, when Arends asked her directly if she wanted to die, the patient repeatedly responded, “Not yet.”

“If you asked her: ‘What would you think if I were to help you to die?’, she looked bewildered and said: ‘That’s going a bit far!’” Arends told Nieuwsuur.

However, she contended, “I saw in her eyes that she didn’t understand it any more.”

Despite asking the patient three times, and receiving a negative reply each time, Arends went through with the euthanasia on April 22, 2016. She secretly put a sleeping drug in the patient’s coffee. However, the patient woke up and appeared to recoil from the lethal infusion, and her daughter and husband had to restrain her while the procedure was completed.

In the public outcry that followed, Arends was charged with murder. Prosecutors argued that the patient may have changed her mind about the euthanasia, and said Arends should have done more to ensure her consent.

However, a district court in The Hague ruled in September 2019 that it would have been impossible to further identify the patient’s consent, saying she no longer understood the definition of “euthanasia.” The court ruled that a decision made during a time of sound judgment is valid even after the patient loses their mental capacities.

The decision was upheld by the Dutch Supreme Court in April 2020.

In her interview with Nieuwsuur, Arends defended her use of the secret sedative, as well as euthanizing the patient without final consent and against her last vocal wishes.

“It is good to get the confirmation,” she said. “But I couldn’t get this confirmation, and without it I had to take this step. It was tremendously difficult, but for the best.”

She maintained that she believed her actions were legal, because government regulations allowed a previous living will to serve as adequate consent to euthanasia if a patient later becomes unable to express their desires.

Religious freedom and pro-life advocates decried the court’s decision in 2019 and emphasized that legal euthanasia has dangerous consequences for society, the National Catholic Register reported.

“With regulators and euthanasia campaigners closely intermingled, this case shines a spotlight on the weakness of safeguards and review procedures, as well as, frighteningly, on the whole culture around attitudes to end-of-life care in the Netherlands,” said Gordon Macdonald, CEO of Care Not Killing.

“The case in the Netherlands exposes the threat that legalizing euthanasia poses to individuals and the society as a whole,” said Andreas Thonhauser, spokesman for Alliance Defending Freedom International. “Once a country allows euthanasia, as in the Netherlands, there is no logical stopping point.”

Tags: Catholic News, Euthanasia, Netherlands

Subscribe to our daily CNA newsletter

At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.

As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.