THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Following the death of a teenager whose parents say she killed herself with a substance she ordered online, Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday launched a criminal investigation into a group that has been advising people on using a “suicide powder.”
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands, but only if carried out under controlled conditions by medical professionals on patients who are terminally ill and wish to die.
Prosecutors had been looking at the Final Wish cooperative since September, they said in a statement, and were prompted to act on Wednesday due to suspicions that the group was about to order enough powder for use by some 1,000 members.
Final Wish made headlines last week when the father of 19-year-old Ximena Knol said on television the group should be shut down after his daughter’s suicide using a powder believed to be the same “Substance X” the association promotes.
The group said in September it would make a suicide powder available to some registered members.
According to Dutch newspaper Trouw, the substance is made with legally available ingredients used to preserve food and combat bacteria and moulds in laboratories.
In 2016, the latest year for which figures are available, there were more than 6,000 reported cases of euthanasia or medically assisted suicide in the Netherlands, roughly 4 percent of all deaths there that year.
Assisted suicides are regulated by strict laws state that say a patient must first have to be found to be suffering unbearably, with no chance of improvement. The request must be made repeatedly and when the patient is of sound mind, and every case must be checked by a second doctor and reviewed after death.
There is an ongoing debate about widening the criteria to allow elderly people who feel their life has been “completed” to seek euthanasia. Polls last year showed 62 percent of Dutch people support a law making that possible, with strong opposition from Christian parties.
Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Peter Graff and John Stonestreet