Dutch calm row over euthanasia

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THE HAGUE (Reuter) - The Dutch government, seeking to deflate a controversy over a euthanasia law, issued a statement making it plain that mercy killing remained a criminal offence in the Netherlands.

The Justice Ministry said the law, approved by parliament on 9 February, simply sets out a procedure for doctors to report the termination of a patient's life to the authorities. A public prosecutor will then decide on a case-by-case basis whether to prosecute, and any physician found guilty of taking a patient's life faces a maximum jail sentence of 12 years. The Vatican alleges that the law is reminiscent of the Third Reich.