The trial has begun in Dendermonde of a doctor who carried out euthanasia on a 38-year-old patient, Tine Nys, in April 2010. Nys was suffering from psychological pain.
The procedure was approved by two doctors, as the law demands, and was carried out by Dr Joris Van Hove. Following the procedure, the case was reviewed by the Euthanasia Commission, which decided that the rules had been correctly followed.
But her family protested, and their campaign led to the unprecedented trial in the Assizes Court in Ghent in 2018 of the three doctors involved.
That trial led to an acquittal of all three, but the family took the verdict to the Cassation Court, which ordered that Dr Van Hove should be tried again, as the court’s explanation for its verdict in his case was insufficiently argued.
When the three doctors were acquitted in January 2020, the public prosecutor declined to take the case to the Cassation Court, which means that the acquittal on criminal charges can no longer be overturned. So the court case currently underway in Dendermonde has to decide if Dr Van Hove is civilly liable, and therefore has to pay damages to Nys’ family.
The court has decided a number of witnesses will be called for questioning, and yesterday it was the turn of Dr Van Hove himself.
Tine, he told the court, had been expressing a death wish from the age of 14.
“At every consultation, Tine asked for euthanasia,” he said. “She stuck to her request for euthanasia because nothing was working any more. I know she was in treatment and thought her autism spectrum disorder was also being treated.”
The family stressed that the civil procedure is not a campaign against euthanasia as such.
“We had a liberal upbringing,” said sister Sophie. “It is a misunderstanding to think this is a campaign against the euthanasia law. But it has to be carried out correctly.”