Sunday 25 October 2020

Fresh calls for ‘end-of-life’ pill for elderly people refused euthanasia

Assorted pills

Organisations want ‘lethal pills’ to be available legally.

Right-to-die organisations have made a fresh call for a ‘last will pill’ to be given to people who no longer wish to live but are turned down for euthanasia.

The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life (NVVE) and centrist-liberal party D66 both say the medicine should be made available to elderly people who want to end their lives. D66 MP Pia Dijkstra told Nieuwsuur she planned to bring a private bill to parliament later this year allowing people over 80 to end their lives voluntarily.

‘There is no doubt that older people, with their experience of a long life, are in a better state than younger people to decide if their life is still worth living,’ she said.

The Last Will Co-operative (Coöperatie Laatste Wil) has gone further, calling for lethal prescriptions to be available for people over the age of 18 under strict conditions.

It highlighted the death of a 31-year-old woman who had suffered from psychiatric illness since the age of 12. Else Gunst died after refusing food and water for two weeks, after her application for euthanasia was turned down.

Doctors agreed that Else de Gunst was suffering ‘unbearably’ and had no prospect of improvement – the two conditions for euthanasia under Dutch law – but disagreed about whether she was mentally fit to decide her own fate.

Pleaded to die

Else’s mother, Astrid, told Nieuwsuur how she had changed from a ‘happy, contented young girl into a girl we couldn’t reach any more’. Else constantly pleaded to be allowed to die despite the interventions of numerous doctors, psychiatrists and therapists.

The NVVE argues that a ‘last will pill’ should be an option for people over the age of 75 who have been refused euthanasia, if it is approved by their doctor. The Last Will Co-operative wants to trial a similar medicine for its members over the age of 18, without the involvement of a doctor..

The latter organisation says Dutch pharmacies should be allowed to make up deadly prescriptions or dispense the ingredients for a ‘lethal cocktail’ to its members under strict conditions.

‘People can always take their own lives, but in the Netherlands you have to do it in an awful way or break the law by getting the materials from abroad,’ said spokesman Gert Rebergen.

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