Criminal investigations have been launched into a number of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands, with concerns that the practice is becoming normalised.
Regional euthanasia committees, which monitor the system for potential breaches in the law, recommended that criminal investigations be launched into four cases.
The number of deaths by euthanasia has risen every year for ten years and the figure was around 7,000 in 2017 alone.
In one case, a 67-year-old woman was euthanised despite the doctor involved being unable to determine whether or not the request for death was voluntary and deliberate.
In another, a woman was granted her request for euthansia after complaining that her freedom of movement was “very much restricted” by emphysema – a debilitating lung condition.
And a doctor is under investigation in Noord-Holland for euthanising an 84-year-old woman without sufficient evidence that her suffering was “hopeless”.
Euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002.
The country’s public prosecution department recently tightened its rules to ensure that those requesting euthanasia were doing so voluntarily and their suffering was unbearable and hopeless.
Figures show that the total number of euthanasia deaths in the country rose for the tenth consecutive year.
There were around 7,000 euthanasia deaths in 2017, compared to 6,091 the previous year.
Against her will
Last year, a Dutch doctor escaped punishment after euthanising a dementia sufferer against her will.
The woman said she did not want to die several times in the days before she was given a lethal injection.
The authorities admitted that the doctor had ‘crossed the line’ by giving her the drug and should not have persisted after she showed resistance, but still cleared the doctor who acted ‘in good faith’.
In the UK, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons in 2015.
Concerns were raised at the time that supposed safeguards under an assisted suicide law could never protect vulnerable people.
Before the vote took place, Baroness Butler-Sloss, a former High Court judge, said: “The safeguards provide no real protection to the truly vulnerable and they will fall apart if this bill becomes law.”
Fiona Bruce MP agreed, saying: “Changing the law would mean a radical setback in our creation of a society that offers assisted living, not assisted dying.”