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Thursday, April 15, 1999 Published at 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK


Holland set to end euthanasia prosecutions

Dutch doctors use lethal injecton for mercy killings

Dutch authorities are planning to remove any posibility that doctors will be prosecuted for carrying out euthanasia.

BBC correspondent Andrew Burroughs: "Euthanasia has massive public support"
Euthanasia has been common place in Holland for 25 years, and legal challenge is rare.

Approximately 4,000 patients a year die through active euthanasia in the form of a lethal injection that kills in minutes.

Over half of Dutch doctors have performed mercy killings with the required consent and consultation and at least 90% of the population support euthanasia.

Now the ministry of justice want to remove from routine cases even the possibility of prosecution.

Politicians want change

[ image: Willy Swiden wants to change the law]
Willy Swiden wants to change the law
Willie Swiden, of the Dutch All-Party Justice Committee, said: "We want to change the penal code so that euthanasia will stay a crime offence, but when the doctor handles it properly, meets all the criteria and reports properly there will be no possibility of prosecution."

However, a minority of opponents warn that the liberal attitude to euthanasia is fraught with dangers.

They say euthanasia has been offered to people suffering from depression, or even as a convienience.

Dr Ben Zylicz, of the Dutch League of Doctors, said: "I have heard about a patient where the family came from Canada because of planned euthanasia.

"The patient said, 'no, not today I don't want it anymore' and everybody pressed him saying 'look your family came from Canada, they cannot do it again'.

"In a country where euthanasia is accepted this kind of thing can happen."

Many complaints

[ image: Dr Ben Zylicz warns that euthanasia can be abused]
Dr Ben Zylicz warns that euthanasia can be abused
One nursing home attracted 21 complaints from families who claimed their terminally ill relatives were being denied basic care to shorten their lives.

Lawyer Simon Roodhof represents the families. He said: "I find it strange that even if someone is a doctor he can decide about the life of another person.

"If a person has Alzheimer's disease he cannot state whether he agrees with it or not, why should a doctor say what happens."

But euthanasia campaigner Dr Pieter Admiral, who has carried out almost 100 mercy killings, believes it can be the best way to end suffering.

He said: "Families are completely upset and they ask the doctor can you do anything to end this kind of suffering.

"I think it is a very good medical decision to stop life in these cases of suffering."

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