Correctional court acquits doctor who performed euthanasia 13 years ago

The doctor who carried out the euthanasia of Tine Nys in 2010 did not make a mistake that violated the basic provisions of the Euthanasia Act. As a result, he does not have to pay compensation to the next of kin, Dendermonde Criminal Court ruled on Tuesday.

Nys, aged 38, elected to die by euthanisia on 27 April 2010 as a result of mental suffering, after which one of her sisters filed a civil lawsuit. The Dendermonde court decided in 2016 to exclude the three doctors involved from prosecution, but her family appealed.

In January 2020, the Ghent Court of Assizes acquitted the three doctors. But again, the civil party, Nys's family, appealed. The Court of Cassation ruled that doctor Joris Van Hove should have a new trial because his acquittal was not sufficiently substantiated.

"We can only judge whether there was a violation of the basic conditions"

On Tuesday, the Correctional Court had to decide whether the doctor who performed the procedure could be held civilly liable and ordered to pay damages. "We can only judge whether there was a violation of the basic conditions. (...) It is established that she [Tine Nys] suffered from borderline disorder and autism spectrum disorder. The court is convinced that she could no longer be treated."

According to the verdict, her request had been "voluntarily considered", and she was "in a state of unbearable mental suffering". As a result, the court ruled that there was no fault on the doctor's part and that no compensation should be paid.

The family has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict, said its lawyer, Joris Van Cauter. The doctor was not present for the ruling but reacted with relief at the verdict, said his lawyer, An-Sofie Raes.

Euthanasia law 20 years on

In 2002, Belgium became the second country, after the Netherlands, to introduce a law permitting euthanasia. It allows patients to ask their doctor to end their life under certain circumstances.

The patient must be an adult, competent and aware at the time of the request. The request must be voluntary, considered and repeated. The patient must be in a medically hopeless condition of persistent and intolerable physical or mental suffering that cannot be relieved and is the result of a severe and incurable condition caused by accident or disease.

In 2022, there were 2,966 applications for assisted dying, an increase of 9.85 per cent on 2021. Approximately 69.9 per cent of the patients were older than 70, and 42.2 per cent were older than 80. The number of euthanasia cases involving patients under 40 remained very low, at 1.2 per cent. In 2022, there were no registered cases of euthanasia of minors.

Nevertheless, the introduction of euthanasia in Belgium continues to face problems. In recent years, doctors have faced difficulty when people request the procedure.


#FlandersNewsService | Lawyer Joris Van Cauter and the sisters of Tine following the acquittal of doctor Joris Van Hove © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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