The doctor who helped her mother to die

Witness History

By BBC World Service

The doctor who helped her mother to die

Wednesday, 24 November

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia: although the new law was ground-breaking, it was based in part on the result of a dramatic criminal trial that happened nearly three decades earlier, in 1973. The case concerned a doctor who helped her elderly and terminally ill mother to die after her mother had repeatedly begged her to do so. Dr Truus Postma was put on trial for carrying out voluntary euthanasia and was facing a sentence of up to 12 years if found guilty. Her dilemma as both a doctor and a daughter triggered a national debate about whether her actions were murder or mercy. The case broke taboos and led to the founding of the NVVE, a Dutch organisation which began to campaign for voluntary euthanasia to be made legal. Viv Jones speaks to Dr Postma’s daughter, Marga Postma, and to Klazien Albeda, founder of the NVVE. (Photo: Dr Truus Postma outside court. Bert Verhoeff / Anefo. National Archives of the Netherlands.)
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