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Euthanasia doctor wins sympathy in court

Alkmaar, Netherlands - A doctor charged with the murder of a deformed newborn baby testified yesterday that life was sometimes more threatening than death. Even the prosecution recommended that he should not be punished.

Dr Henk Prins is charged with the death in 1993 of three-day-old Rianne Quirine Kunst, who suffered from hydrocephaly, spina bifida and leg deformities. His trial, which began hereyesterday, marks the first court test of the euthanasia guideline that requires recipients to express their death wish.

Abiding by that narrow definition, the prosecution refused to refer to Rianne's death as euthanasia, although her parents had sought it. The 48-year-old gynaecologist has become something of a hero in the Netherlands - where euthanasia has wide support - and he was treated accordingly in court. Both the judge and prosecutor praised him for honesty and openness. Dr Prins testified that he acted to relieve Rianne from unbearable pain when medical treatment was futile. Rianne screamed whenever she was touched and would have only survived in excruciating pain for several months .

"Life was more threatening for Rianne than death. She was in the strangling grip of death," said Dr Prins. "I wanted to let the process of life-to- death end for Rianne, and for her parents, in the most acceptable way possible." Dr Prins said he consulted several specialists who supported his diagnosis.

Rianne's parents, who did not testify, agreed that deathwas their only option.