Dutch police are investigating the deaths of dozens of people who purchased a suicide powder called Mittel X [“Substance X”] from members of a fundamentalist euthanasia group.
So far, three members of Cooperatie Laatste Wil (CLW, Last Wish Cooperative), an extremist group which promotes “assisted suicide and self-euthanasia without the intervention of doctors”, have been arrested.
The first to be charged, back in August, was Alex Schot, 28, who sold Mittel X to a number of people. The second is the chairman of the cooperative, Jos van Wijk, who was charged this week. He has always maintained that CLW operates within the law.
However, the other person to be arrested this week, Wim van Dijk, 78, openly admitted to the media that he had sold Mittel X illegally to more than 100 people. He expressed his defiance in a feature article in De Volkskrant.
“I am aware of the consequences of my story. I don’t care. 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.”
Contrary to what some people outside the Netherlands might believe, euthanasia there has guardrails. Violations of regulations are sometimes ignored or overlooked – but not the requirement that a doctor should be the agent of ending a person’s life. This is why the Dutch police are taking the actions of the CLW members so seriously.
The CLW believes, in common with similar organisations around the world, that the legalisation of euthanasia is just a first step. Suicide, they argue, is a fundamental human right. Assisting a person to commit suicide, therefore, should be completely unregulated. It’s not surprising, then, that the more daring members of the CLW are willing to risk breaking the law.
The CLW is a small and shadowy organisation. In the Netherlands, the leading right-to-die organisation, NVVE (Dutch Association for Voluntary Euthanasia), is scrupulous about observing the law and has criticised underground sales of Mittel X. However, it, too, believes that suicide is a fundamental right. In a joint article published recently in the newspaper Trouw, the NVVE and the CLW called for “a government-regulated, reliable means of ending life that people can use deliberately to choose a careful and dignified suicide”.