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Dutch medics euthanise sex abuse victim

The woman was self-harming and suicidal (Photo: PA)

Dutch medics have performed the euthanasia of a sex abuse victim who could not live with the memories of the ordeal she suffered as a girl.

The woman, who was in her 20s, was given a lethal injection after battling severe psychiatric problems for 15 years.

She suffered from “treatment-resistant” post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, flashbacks, hallucinations, chronic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and mood swings.

The woman was self-harming and suicidal and was also afflicted by a range of physical illnesses relating to her mental state.

After deciding that the nothing could be done to improve the woman’s condition, doctors and psychiatrists concluded that she was suffering “unbearably” and “hopelessly”.

She told doctors that she wanted to die and they granted her wish after they agreed that her case met the criteria for euthanasia under Dutch law.

Her death is believed to be first in which a sex abuse victim has been killed by medics because of the suffering experienced in the aftermath.

It was met with horror by anti-euthanasia campaigners in Britain who are already shocked by the expanding spread of medical killing since it became legal in Holland in 2002.

Lord Carlile of Berriew, a former reviewer of terrorism legislation, described the decision to kill the woman as “absolutely outrageous”.

The case showed that Holland needed an urgent public inquiry into the working of its assisted dying laws, he said.

“This is an outrageous example of the kind of abuse that could take place if a law doesn’t provide adequate protection for vulnerable people,” he added.

Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, and a Catholic, said the death was “horrendous”.

“It is just appalling,” he said. “It almost sends the message that if you are the victim of abuse, and as a result you get a mental illness, you are being punished by being killed, that the punishment for the crime of being a victim is death.

“It serves to reinforce why any move towards legalising assisted suicide, or assisted dying, of any move that is a step along the path to euthanasia is so dangerous.

“All the assurances and reassurances we are given in places like Holland and Belgium are meaningless and we see appalling, tragic cases like this.

“The legislators who passed this law should be utterly ashamed of themselves.”

Fiona Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton, also condemned the killing.

“This tragic situation shows why euthanasia should never be legalised in this country,” said Mrs Bruce.

“What this woman needed, at a desperate point in her young life, was help and support to overcome her problems, not the option of euthanasia.”

Nikki Kenward of the disability rights group Distant Voices said the death also represented a failure for psychiatric medicine.

“It is both horrifying and worrying that mental health professionals could regard euthanasia in any form as an answer to the complex and deep wounds that result from sexual abuse,” she said.

“That people who are anorexic could be also offered such an escape points to terrible failings on the part of those in whose care broken and weary people find themselves,” she added.

Dutch regulators have already concluded, however, that the case did not infringe any of the safeguards set down by the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act.

The case was included among 17 anonymous studies published by the Dutch government with the latest euthanasia figures to demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of doctors were exercising “due diligence”.

Of 5,561 euthanasia deaths in 2015, regulators found “irregularities” in just four cases and these are being investigated further.

But regulators found that doctors had behaved properly in authorising the death of the sex abuse victim.

The study found that all therapies had been exhausted and that the woman was so weak that she was bedridden and totally dependent on others for her care.

“There was no prospect or hope for her,” the study said. “She had constantly felt that she was dying, but did not die.”

“The desire of the patient was to die,” the study said.

“The patient experienced her suffering as unbearable,” it continued. “The doctor was convinced that the patient’s suffering was unbearable … there were no acceptable options for the patient to relieve the suffering.”

The woman was mentally competent and able to request euthanasia, which was granted after the specialist treating her took the precaution of seeking the opinions of a second psychiatrist and a doctor.

The latest euthanasia figures from Holland show that the number of mental health patients killed by euthanasia has quadrupled in just four years.

Under Dutch law euthanasia and assisted suicide are technically illegal but are not punishable if doctors observe carefully defined criteria, which is supposed to act as safeguards.

These include a request for euthanasia made freely by a mentally competent adult who is suffering unbearably and hopelessly.

There also must be no realistic options to euthanasia and at least one other physician must be consulted before the procedure can go ahead.

Following the death, the case must then be reported to a review committee to ensure due diligence has been observed.

In the spite of the safeguards, critics argue that the law still allows the practice of de facto euthanasia on demand.