The trial of Alex S, a Dutchman who is accused of selling so-called suicide people to hundreds of people, began in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 27 October. Prosecutors believe the accused may have played a role in the deaths of 33 people in the country.
SUICIDE POWDER MATTER GOES TO COURT
Alex S was a member of Coöperatie Laatste Wil (Last Will Cooperative), a right-to-die group that campaigns for more liberal legislation around assisted death and offers advice to people who wish to die by suicide.
According to Dutch law, doctors (it needs to be at least two doctors) can assist death in response to a “voluntary and well consider request”, per The Guardian. The patient must also be faced with “unbearable suffering from which there is no prospect of improvement, or alternative remedy.” Until all these conditions are met, assisting suicide is illegal.
Alex S was arrested in July on suspicion of illegally assisting suicide, as well as involvement with drugs and money laundering. Initially, the authorities suspected him of playing a role in six deaths.
When the matter got to court, prosecutors revealed that the number of deaths linked to Alex S and the “suicide powder” could be far higher, according to BBC News. Prosecutors in Den Bosch believe at least 15 people have died after using the drug they bought from Alex S and a further 18 deaths were still under investigation.
“We do not belong to anyone else, we can determine our own destiny,” said Alex S in court.
COOPERATIE LAASTE WIL AND ‘DRUG X’
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002 under the aforementioned restrictions.
Dutch campaigners, such as Coöperatie Laatste Wil, argue that the current laws are too strict on people on people who want to end their lives. As you can imagine, the issue has proven to be quite controversial with conservative Christian parties and academics pushing back against the law. Similar arguments against the practice are made in South Africa where euthanasia (physician assisted suicide) is banned.
A Dutch psychologist Wim van Dijk – also a member of Coöperatie Laatste Wil – recently told a local newspaper that he gave the “suicide powder” (also known as Drug X or Agent X) to more than 100 people. He said he decided to go public with the information because he wanted to spark debate about the law and did not care that he could be jailed for his actions.
“I am aware of the consequences of my story. I don’t care,” he said to De Volkskrant. “I want the social unrest to become so great that the judiciary cannot ignore it. I don’t really care if they arrest me or put me in jail. I want something to happen,” said the 78-year-old,
In the interview, Van Dijk said he sold the suicide powder to attendees of the Cooperative’s meetings after the moderator left. He charged €50 (R888) for a dose.
Prosecutors said Alex S allegedly sold the drug to “anyone who would want it” via the messaging service Telegram and other means. He charged €20 (R355) a dose and earned at least €55 000 (R976 973) by doing so.
“I have carefully provided people who want to maintain control over their own end of life with the means to end life at the time of their choice in the future,” said Van Dijk. “I am a provider. I have provided Agent X to more than 100 people.”
According to The Guardian, assisting suicide carries a maximum term of three years imprisonment.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can be reached via telephone at 0800-121-314, or via SMS at 32312 – a counsellor will return your call.