Judges in The Hague heard arguments from right-to-die advocates and the Dutch state in case about the legalisation of assisted suicide on Monday.
Cooperatie Laatste Wil, which advocates for people with a ‘final wish’ to die, bought the complaint together with 29 individuals and more than 45,000 ‘supporters.’ They want the court to force the Dutch government to decriminalise assisting someone to commit suicide.
Under current law, it is illegal to help anyone die by suicide or fail to follow the legal procedure for euthanasia.
The group argues these restrictions prevent people from ending their lives in a dignified manner and violate the European Convention on Human Rights. ‘This case is about your own life and about your own death,’ Cooperatie Laatste Wil lawyer Martyn Schellekens told the court.
Lawyers for the Dutch state disagree. The current legal regime balances ‘the duty to protect human life and the duty to protect personal autonomy,’ said Wemmeke Wisman
This is not the first time the group has been in court. Chairman Jos van Wijk was arrested in 2021 on suspicion of assisting suicide and being the member of an illegal organisation. Another group member was arrested for supplying a so-called suicide powder.
Prosecutors claim that 33 people who purchase the power are no longer alive. The substance in question, known as Agent X, is a preservative powder freely available for purchase in the Netherlands.
The lobby group, founded in 2013, has some 29,000 paying members and claims to have enough support to win a seat in parliament.
A fundraising effort in 2021 netted more than €200,000 which the group is using to pay the legal bills in the case.
‘I blame the state for the fact that there is no possibility to die with dignity,’ one of the plaintiffs, Marion van Gerrevink, told the AD. She was one of the many people in court for the hearing.
Van Gerrevink’s son, Rob, killed himself in 2010 and she said she is saddened that he died alone. ‘I was at his birth, I would have liked to have been at his death,’ she said.
The court said it will announce its verdict on December 14, 2022.
There are free services in the Netherlands to support people who have suicidal thoughts. You can contact 113 Suicide Prevention via www.113.nl or 0800-0113.
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