In a Test Case, Dutch Doctor Convicted of Assisting Suicide

Didn´t Follow Criteria, But He Receives No Jail Sentence

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, DEC. 7, 2001 ( A Dutch doctor was convicted of assisting suicide in a test case that sought to define the limits of euthanasia in the Netherlands, the first country to make it legal.

An appeals court found physician Philip Sutorius guilty Thursday but did not give him a jail sentence, court spokeswoman Liesbeth Dubois told Reuters.

Sutorius aided former Senator Edward Brongersma in taking his life in 1998. Brongersma was suffering from incontinence, dizziness and immobility, and said he was tired of life.

«The reason he was found guilty was because he did not act for medical reasons, but rather because the patient was tired of life,» Dubois said. «But the court did not sentence him because he acted out of compassion for his patient and because the court viewed this as a test case by the prosecutor.»

The prosecution hopes to use the case to define the limits of euthanasia, she said. The prosecution had appealed against an earlier judgment from a Haarlem court which acquitted Sutorius. That court found the doctor had fulfilled all the criteria for assisting Brongersma in ending his life.

Although the assisted suicide happened before the law was enacted, the court considered the current law in its judgment, Dubois said.

Under the new law, doctors can still be prosecuted if they fail to follow strict rules, which insist that adult patients must make a voluntary, well-considered and lasting request to die.

Patients must face a future of unbearable suffering and there must be no reasonable alternative in order to be allowed to die. A second doctor must be consulted and the assisted suicide must be carried out in a «medically appropriate way.»

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