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Leader of Dutch end-of-life group arrested (and released)

The chairman of a Dutch organization that lobbies for people’s right to end their own lives and provides information to its members has been detained on suspicion of involvement in assisted suicide.

On Wednesday September 29, police arrested the chairman of Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW): the 73-year-old Jos van Wijk. According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), Van Wijk is suspected of “participating in a criminal organization whose object it is to commit and/or plan the crime of assisted suicide”.

On Thursday September 30, Van Wijk has been released. He remains a suspect, but the investigation does not require him to remain in custody any longer.

Cause of the detention

The investigation was launched in response to a number of recent suicide cases, the OM said. At this stage, the judiciary does not yet want to say how many cases are involved, nor where they occurred. Lawyer Vis also does not know this yet. “We have not yet been informed of the specific reason,” said the lawyer.

According to Vis, Van Wijk is “fully cooperating” in the investigation. “Transparency is very important to him and to the cooperative, especially towards the Public Prosecution Service.” According to the lawyer, the cooperative always operated within the framework of the law.

Debate in the Netherlands

Debate has been going on for years in the Netherlands about the possibility of legalizing assisted suicide as a way of giving people control over the final phase of their lives and allowing distribution of a substance that people wishing to end their lives can take.

While CLW says that a majority of the Dutch population supports legalization, politicians remain deeply divided.

Civil case against the Dutch state

The group CLW, which has says it has more than 26,500 members, is pushing for a law change. It filed a civil case against the Dutch state in April, arguing that the government is “acting unlawfully by denying its citizens the right to die with dignity under their own control.” The case is expected to go to court next year.

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