The proposal follows years of discussion in parliament and in society at large about the right of people who consider their lives have reached the end to die peacefully.
In their briefing, the ministers say that ‘elderly’ people with a consistent and well-considered wish to die – whether ill or not – should be able to take a drug to end their lives. Family members would not be allowed to administer the drug.
All requests for help would be assessed by a specially trained care worker and an independent expert to make sure the patient is not acting on impulse or has come under undue pressure from his or her family, the ministers said.
The practice would not be considered euthanasia, in which the patient is said to be suffering unbearably, and in which doctors have an active role.
The change in the law would ‘do justice to a legitimate and growing wish in society in general’, the ministers said.
The cabinet believes that people who consider their life to be complete should have the autonomous right to ask for help to kill themselves, the ministers said in their letter.
The cabinet statement follows a report by an independent committee of experts earlier this year which said that euthanasia for people who consider their lives to be completed should not be allowed in law.
The committee was set up following the acquittal of a man who had helped his 99-year-old mother to die because she felt her life was at an end.
In November 2014, the voluntary euthanasia society relaunched its campaign to have a pill made available to elderly people who wish to end their lives.
The idea for such a pill was first launched at the beginning of the 1990s by senior judge and euthanasia campaigner Huib Drion and became known as ‘Drion’s pill’.
The NVVE says the pills should only be issued by pharmacists or family doctors. ‘This is important to make sure the drugs cannot be used for suicide, abuse or murder,’ the organisation said.
The ministers’ plan will require new legislation, separate from the current euthanasia legislation, which will outline the system of checks and balances to ensure there is no abuse.