Former Dutch health minister found dead

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — Els Borst, a former health minister who drafted the Netherlands' 2002 law permitting euthanasia, has been found dead in her garage, police said Tuesday. She was 81.

Utrecht police spokesman Thomas Aling told state broadcaster NOS that police had not ruled out a natural cause of death, an accident or a crime, but had no reason to suspect a crime.

She was seen as recently as Saturday, at a function of her centrist D66 political party.

Borst was a medical academic who served as health minister from 1994 to 2002. She also drafted the legislation that permits the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.

The country's euthanasia law, which codified a longstanding practice, allows euthanasia when a person requests it, is suffering unbearably and has no chance of recovery. Two doctors must agree.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte praised Borst Tuesday as "a wise professional, with clear and considered standpoints, who stood her ground."

"She won people over with her openness, mildness and honesty," he said.

Borst's viewpoints were often at odds with those of religious groups, but enjoyed the approval of most Dutch voters.

Trying to prevent a measles epidemic in the Dutch Calvinist bible belt last year, she wrote an opinion piece in newspaper Algemeen Dagblad asking pastors and churchgoers to get vaccinated.

"If everything is God's will, then so is the invention of the vaccine, just like the seatbelt," she said.

As minister she was criticized for failing to get rid of waiting lists for state-sponsored health care during her term, even as she fought for more spending.

Borst had the title of "minister of state" — one of a handful of former political leaders given diplomatic passports who were allowed to represent the country on the international stage.

She is survived by three children.

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