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Baby 'euthanasia' trial opens in Stockholm

Baby 'euthanasia' trial opens in Stockholm

Published: 13 Sep 2011 13:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2011 13:44 GMT+02:00

The trial against a Swedish doctor accused of infant euthanasia came underway on Tuesday, a case causing concern among the country's medical profession.

The case, which has received significant media coverage since the baby's death in 2009, is exceptional because legal procedures against doctors are very rare in Sweden, where malpractice cases usually go before the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) with no criminal ramifications.

The case has raised concerns in medical circles, leaving doctors uncertain and wary of performing certain operations for fear of legal consequences.

The 57-year-old doctor, a woman whose name has not been disclosed, has been charged with manslaughter or alternatively attempted manslaughter for allegedly administering excessive doses of thiopental, an anaesthetic, to a very sick three-month-old baby that was born prematurely and was expected to die shortly of brain damage.

The doctor had removed the child from a life support system after consulting with the family and concluding that the baby's life could not be saved.

But an autopsy ordered by the family later found that the infant had received abnormally high doses of thiopental, and the family then had charges pressed against the doctor.

On Tuesday the doctor denied having administered thiopental and entered a plea of not guilty, her lawyer Björn Hurtig said, Swedish news agency TT reported.

She faces six to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Marta Christensen, the deputy head of Stockholm's Association of Medical Practitioners, said the case has left many doctors rattled.

"To question yourself is part of the job but now maybe they think things over a bit more and that means longer decision-making processes that in the end can unnecessarily delay medical care. A sense of insecurity has plagued the entire medical corps," Christensen told Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

While the court has to determine whether or not the doctor administered thiopental, a top Swedish expert in penal law said in an editorial in newspaper of reference Dagens Nyheter that the prosecutor was wrong to press charges.

Professor emeritus Margareta Leijonhufvud argued that in end-of-life medical care, ethical guidelines allow doctors to administer painkillers even if it means death comes sooner than it otherwise would have.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

19:06 September 13, 2011 by Douglas Garner
Is there any evidence or witness? Other suspects?
09:47 September 14, 2011 by wolverine2k
I guess the doctor was basically freeing the baby from all the pains it was suffering. It was anyways going to die of brain damage. And she would be charged with 6-10 years of prison. What about people who are killing others who are not going to die? They just get 2 years. Man, crazy Sweden!
11:05 September 14, 2011 by framboize
I agree that this is not comparale to someone killing people that are not going to die. But I would have done the same thing as these parents and NOT because blaming my babys death on someone.

BUT its time that doctors in Sweden take their responsibility because its far away to much nonchalans and wrongdiagnosis. Feels like the doctors in Sweden are untouchable. Met to many arrogant ones myself!
02:23 September 21, 2011 by hldmacc2011
Doctors in Sweden are the best of the best. I haven't met a better one anywhere else, and I am very offended to hear such slander of Swedish doctors.
18:12 March 22, 2012 by strixy
From what I have read I am inclined tot hink the doctor was freeing the baby from pain. it would have died anyway and I find it somehow surprsing if the family wanted it to die in pain?
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