Belgian doctors face trial in country's first euthanasia case

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Three Belgian doctors go on trial for murder on Tuesday for helping a woman end her life, in the country’s first criminal case concerning euthanasia.

The doctors, whose names have not been made public, are accused of unlawfully poisoning 38-year-old Tine Nys on April 27, 2010. Prosecutors say Nys did not fulfill the conditions under Belgian law to be euthanised.

They are the first doctors to go on trial for euthanasia in Belgium since the country legalized the practice in 2002.

The three, whose signatures were required for the procedure, are the doctor who administered the lethal injection, Nys’s former general practitioner and a psychiatrist.

Nys’s parents and sisters, who were present at her death, complained that the euthanasia was carried out in an amateurish manner and that Nys did not have an incurable mental disorder, a key condition for granting euthanasia.

The trial in a court in the northern city of Ghent will focus on jury selection when it starts on Tuesday afternoon, a process that could take time given the sensitive nature of the case.

Prosecutors are due to read the indictment on Friday before the doctors are given a chance to speak next Monday.

Belgian law allows adults to request the right to die on condition that they are facing unbearable physical or mental suffering resulting from a serious and incurable disorder. It was extended to terminally ill children in 2014.

Most patients choosing medically assisted death have terminal cancer, but mental suffering has extended, for example, to twins born deaf and becoming blind who are unable to bear not being able to see or hear each other.

In neighboring the Netherlands, where euthanasia is also legal, a doctor was acquitted in a trial in September after being accused of failing to secure proper consent from a woman who had Alzheimer’s. Prosecutors there have since sought a Supreme Court ruling. [nL5N26H3H3]

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Ed Osmond