Controversy over assisted suicide in the Netherlands

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

A special website has been launched in the Netherlands for people who assist family or friends to commit suicide and want to tell their stories anonymously, or simply ask questions. Assisted suicide carried out by lay people is currently punishable by law.

In the Netherlands, only doctors can carry out assisted suicides, and they can do so only if they follow strict protocols. According to Right-to-Die-Netherlands (NVVE), physicians frequently refuse requests for assisted suicide, leaving patients unable to carry out their wishes in a humane way. One case recently made headlines: a man who helped his 99-year-old mother to die by giving her the lethal medication she requested. The Ministry of Justice is considering bringing charges against the man.

The NVVE says people are often unwilling to help their friends and loved ones because they fear prosecution. So they're left witnessing their loved ones dying or committing suicide and have to live with those memories. The organisation hopes that the anonymous testimonies will provoke discussion in the Netherlands and ultimately to the scrapping of the law against lay people helping in cases of assisted suicide.