Gerty Casteelen, one of the End-of-life Clinic's psychiatrists, conducted eight hours of interviews with her before deciding that she really wished to die.
'It was a long process', the medic recalls. 'I came to understand that her fears completely controlled her life.'All she could do all day was clean. It was impossible for her to maintain a relationship. Her whole development had stalled.'The patient wanted to die in the evening, at 11 minutes past eight, in her own home. (She chose the very precise time for reasons she kept to herself.)
She had already prepared the invitation cards for her memorial and had bought champagne for the four women who would watch her death. The quartet were psychiatrist Ms Casteelen who would kill her, an assisting nurse from the End Of Life clinic, the patient's GP and a close friend.
Ms Casteelen recalls that the patient was wearing grey pyjamas and says she was happy and relaxed.
'At eight o'clock, I said: 'We have to start preparing things now. She replied: 'No. I would like another glass of champagne.' We asked her if she still wanted to die. She told us how she had been looking forward to this moment; how she was going to be free.'Ms Casteelen then went about her work. She began to put a sedative drip in the woman's arm.
'We wished her well on her journey. She fell asleep very quickly. That's when I put the muscle relaxant into her.'Dutch Euthanasia Commission,monitors the mercy killings.The process involves a patient submitting a request to die to a doctor who, in turn, must agree they are in a medically hopeless condition, suffering 'unbearably', either physically or — contentiously — mentally. Above all, they must have no hope of improvement.
The request then goes to an ethics committee which makes a decision, normally within a week.Currently, 4 per cent of the 140,000 or so deaths a year in Holland are the result of doctor-assisted suicide and the tally is rising.