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Fate of Dutch prince highlights euthanasia gulf

The fate of Prince Friso, the Dutch prince who has remained in a coma in a London hospital for six months after he was hit by an avalanche in Austria, has highlighted the gulf between euthanasia laws in Britain and Holland.

3 September 2012

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According to a report in The Times on Friday (31 August 2012), Heleen Dupuis, a leading member of the Dutch Senate, said: “Had the prince been sent to a Dutch hospital, doctors would probably have turned off the life support systems because there is such a slim possibility that he will ever recover.”

The comment, according to the paper, broke a “long public silence” that followed the skiing accident in February, in which the prince was trapped under heavy snow and his brain starved of oxygen, and “reignited a longstanding national discussion about how and when to end life”.

Dupuis is chairman of the Dutch Association of Disabled People and vice chairman of the medical ethics committee of the Leiden University Medical Centre. She is also a past president of the Dutch Association for Voluntary Euthanasia.

Prince Friso has been living in Kew with his wife Princess Mabel and two children. He works for Goldman Sachs while his wife is an expert on the Balkans.

According to The Times, Princess Mabel visits him in hospital in St John’s Wood every day and his mother, Queen Beatrix, comes over almost every weekend.

There are said to be rumours in Holland that Prince Friso will be brought home to die, making him the highest profile person to die under Dutch voluntary euthanasia rules.

Voluntary euthanasia in Holland is a crime but doctors can escape conviction if they follow guidelines.

Among the requirements are that there is physical or mental suffering which the sufferer finds ‘unbearable’, that the suffering and desire to die is lasting and the decision to die is the patient’s own decision.

The patient must have a ‘correct and clear’ understanding of his or his condition and the prognosis. The doctor involved must also obtain a second opinion.

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