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Dutchman arrested for selling suicide powder

Het bewuste poeder werd vertoond in tv-programma Nieuwsuur.

On Tuesday July the 20th, a 28-year-old man in the Netherlands was arrested for trafficking suicide powder. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, at least six suicides are linked to the man. The Justice Department suspects the drug was provided to hundreds of people. Research should show how many people actually took the drug and how many people died from it.

The investigation

The criminal investigation started after the death of a woman in May 2021. A suspicious substance and data carriers were found with her, which led the investigation team to the 28-year-old man. An investigation was then launched into the question of whether the suspect provided the substance to more than one person. The suspect sold the drug from November 2018 to June 2021, justice says.

Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW)

The suspect was a member of Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW): a Dutch Right to Die Society that advocates for self-determination when it comes to dying. “I understand that he acted in a peaceful manner,” says Jos van Wijk, chairman of CLW about the man. “His trade shows that people want this stuff,” says Van Wijk. But he is disagreed with the way S. proceeded. „I do not think that anyone should simply function as a pick-up address.” Van Wijk believes that anyone who wants to die should be allowed to die. He believes it is important that people are properly instructed about safety use of the suicide drug, which is referred to as ‘agent X’ by, among others, CLW mentioned, and that conversations are held in advance with the person who has a death wish.

The Dutch Right to Die Society NVVE also reacted on the news:

Last week, the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had arrested a 28-year-old man from Eindhoven on suspicion of assisted suicide. The man is allege dto have sold a suicide drug to hundreds of people. Six people would have actually died as a result of their use. A drama? Of successful self-determination?

For the NVVE, the answer to that question depends on how people have come to their decision to kill themselves. Did this happen on a whim, under the influence of a mental disorder or even turned on by another? Then it’s a tragedy. Did it happen as a result of a well considered and enduring death wish? Then, as far as the NVVE is concerned, it could be self determination.

However, current legislation does not allow this difference to be made. By law, any assisted suicide by a non-doctor is prohibited, regardless of the context. In responses to the news, the Eindhovener is accused of being careless: he would not have informed people well about the risks of the drug and would not have investigated whether people knew what they were doing. However, even if he had done this, he would have committed a criminal act. 

The comments also show that people think assisted suicide has been criminalised to prevent people from killing themselves in an impulse. It’s not. Preventing impulse suicides has never been the idea behind the criminality of assisting in suicide. See also this blog

Judging by the broad support there is for “self-determination over one’s own end of life”, in combination with the much-heard, and justified, concern for vulnerable people, politicians would do well to amend the legislation in such a way that the difference between impulsive or involuntary suicide and deliberate suicide will legally matter. The first aid is a criminal offence, but aid for the second is not.  

In such a legal reality, the man had done research into the people who order the drug from him and perhaps he would have been more reluctant to supply it. And you can even go a step further by letting not this man but a specialized caregiver be the one who would be approached for a cure. This aid worker would know the ways to guide the person to expert help, when for example the person would face financial or other social problems.  

The news about this large-scale supply of suicide drugs at least makes clear to many people what we have known fora long time: that there is a significant group of people with a (considered or not considered) death wish who cannot or will not go to the doctor. As far as the NVVE is concerned, it would be good if politics took this up, instead of leaving it to the (free?) market.  

(Source: NVVE :: Blog: NVVE sees an opportunity for politics in eindhovenaar’s arrest)