Right-to-die pensioners face jail terms of up to 2.5 years

Supporters of the group outside the court last week. Photo: Koen Verheijden ANP

Six pensioners aged between 70 and 80 who are charged with helping people to kill themselves in an organised way, should be jailed for up to 2.5 years, the public prosecution department said at Monday’s hearing. 

But a seventh person, 70-year old Petra de Jong, should be found not guilty because she did not take part in the distribution of the suicide powder by the group, the public prosecutor said. 

All seven on trial are either members or former members of the right-to-die group Cooperative Last Will, which believes everyone has the right to end their lives at the time of their choosing and has long campaigned for an end-of-life pill. None have been in trouble with the police before.

The public prosecution department, however, claims several people died as a result of taking the powder provided by members of the cooperative. “They decided who could get substance X and who could not,” the public prosecutor said last week’s hearing. “It did not matter if you were young or old, depressed or not.”

One of the seven, 80-year-old Loek de L, is said by the public prosecutor to have supplied the chemical compound to over 600 people via meetings at people’s homes. He bought the drug from Alex S, who was jailed for 3.5 years in 2023 for supplying the compound, known as “substance x”.

The unnamed powder is used in the chemical industry and when ingested it can take up to 40 hours to die. Selling the powder is not an offence in itself unless the purpose is to help someone take their own life. Under Dutch law, it is illegal to help someone to die, unless a doctor acts under the strict terms of euthanasia legislation.

The foundation was set up in 2013 and now has some 30,000 members, most of whom joined when the cooperative went public about substance x.

In total eight days have been set aside for the hearings and the verdict is due in July.

Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts can talk or chat anonymously with the helpline 113.nl or call the free number 0800-0113.

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