A Dutch court has sentenced a man to 3½ years in prison for providing contacts with a lethal suicide drug. The man, identified only as Alex S, was convicted of helping at least ten people. All were over the age of 18. However, he sold the drug to 1,600 people.
Eighteen months of the sentence were suspended, so that he will serve only them if he re-offends.
The man, who apparently suffers from autism, said he believed he was acting lawfully. However, the Dutch law only permits licensed doctors to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
The court also found that the man had provided the drugs to people who were not terminally ill or in unbearable pain. In some cases, the man had even provided the drugs to people who had been diagnosed with mental illness.
“He is convinced that every person has the right to decide about their own life and believes that government policy in this area falls short,” the court said.
The court, in the southern city of Den Bosch, said that S. “treated the lives of others very lightly and damaged the value of human life in general” and “undermined” the carefully formulated Dutch euthanasia law.
S. told buyers that the drug led to a painless death. But the court disagreed. “Use of drug X does not always lead to a ‘soft’ death,” it said, as some relatives witnessed “severe distress and panic which led to a gruesome death.”
The judges said that they were conscious of the public debate about end-of-life issues in the Netherlands but stressed that “in a democratic society, it is important that laws are observed. Even by those who do not find their opinion reflected in the law in all respects.”