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Doc Pleads Innocent In Mercy Killing Case

In an important test of Norway’s laws on mercy killing, a retired doctor pleaded innocent Monday to murdering a patient.

Christian Sandsdalen, 79, is the first Norwegian doctor to face trial for first-degree murder in a euthanasia case. In June 1996, he gave a lethal dose of morphine to multiple sclerosis victim Bodil Bjerkmann, 45, at her request.

Sandsdalen, who retired from active practice in 1985, wrote to the public prosecutor, admitting the killing. He also appeared on national television last year and demanded that he be tried to test the law.

At the time, Sandsdalen said his patient was in constant pain from advanced multiple sclerosis.

Among witnesses expected to testify before the Oslo City Court is Roberta Wiig, Bjerkmann’s neighbor and close friend during the woman’s 10-year illness. She told the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang that Bjerkmann had wanted to die to end her suffering.

“Bodil said she did not want to take her own life until it became unbearable,” Wiig said in an interview published Monday. “She kept that promise. The problem was that, by then, she no longer could do it herself.”

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