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Dutch Court Expands Euthanasia Guidelines to Include Mentally Ill

<i> Associated Press</i>

The debate over euthanasia in the Netherlands flared Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused to punish a doctor who supplied a fatal dose of sleeping pills to a severely depressed but otherwise healthy 50-year-old woman.

The court ruling Tuesday broadened the country’s euthanasia guidelines to include the mentally and emotionally ill.

While the nation’s largest daily, De Telegraaf, charged the government with crossing “a bridge too far,” mental health organizations welcomed the ruling. Marianne van den Ende, a spokeswoman for a mental health group, said the decision “allows the emancipation of the psychiatric patient.”

Assisted suicide is a form of euthanasia under Dutch law. Although the current guidelines do not restrict mercy killing to the physically ill, they do not specifically allow it for the mentally ill.

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court found psychiatrist Boudewijn Chabot guilty of assisting in the 1991 suicide of a severely depressed woman, but only because he had not followed a requirement for a second opinion. The court ruled he should not be punished.


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