Article Text

Download PDFPDF

First prosecution of a Dutch doctor since the Euthanasia Act of 2002: what does the verdict mean?
  1. Eva Constance Alida Asscher1,
  2. Suzanne van de Vathorst1,2
  1. 1 Medical Ethics/General Practice, Amsterdam UMC–Locatie AMC, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
  2. 2 Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eva Constance Alida Asscher, Medical Ethics/General Practice, Amsterdam UMC–Locatie AMC, Amsterdam 1105 AZ, North Holland, Netherlands; e.c.asscher{at}


On 11 September 2019, the verdict was read in the first prosecution of a doctor for euthanasia since the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act of 2002 was installed in the Netherlands. The case concerned euthanasia on the basis of an advance euthanasia directive (AED) for a patient with severe dementia. In this paper we describe the review process for euthanasia cases in the Netherlands. Then we describe the case in detail, the judgement of the Regional Review Committees for Termination of Life on Request and Euthanasia (RTE) and the judgement of the medical disciplinary court. Both the review committees and the disciplinary court came to the conclusion there were concerns with this case, which mainly hinged on the wording of the AED. They also addressed the lack of communication with the patient, the absence of oral confirmation of the wish to die and the fact that the euthanasia was performed without the patient being aware of this. However, the doctor was acquitted by the criminal court as the court found she had in fact met all due care criteria laid down in the act. We then describe what this judgement means for euthanasia in the Netherlands. It clarifies the power and reach of AEDs, it allows taking conversations with physicians and the testimony of the family into account when interpreting the AED. However, as a practical consequence the prosecution of this physician has led to fear among doctors about prosecution after euthanasia.

  • Euthanasia (Active voluntary)
  • Advance Directives
  • Dementia
  • Legal Case

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors ECAA and SvdV made substantial contributions to the conception of the work, and/or the interpretation of data. Both authors contributed to drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content. ECAA and SvdV approved the final version and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding This study was funded by NVVE.

  • Competing interests ECAA and SvdV receive funding from the Dutch Association for Voluntary End of Life (NVVE).

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.