Leader of end-of-life group arrested for assisted suicide
Those in the Netherlands in life threatening danger should immediately dial 112 for emergency services. Anyone suffering from depression or contemplating suicide may call 113 Zelfmoordpreventie at any time by dialing either 113 or 0800-0113. Counselors at De Luisterlijn may also be reached at 088-0767000, or volunteers may be reached at one of their local numbers. A list of suicide crisis hotlines outside the Netherlands is available on Wikipedia.
The police arrested the chairman of Coöperatie Laatste Wil in Apeldoorn on Wednesday, on suspicion of involvement in assisted suicide. According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), the 73-year-old chairman Jos van Wijk is suspected of participating in a criminal organization with the intent to commit or plan assisted suicide. Coöperatie Laatste Wil advocates for self-determination around the deathbed.
Van WIjk's home was searched on Tuesday, according to the OM. Elsewhere in the country, another home was also searched. Van Wijk will be questioned on Wednesday, his lawyer Tim Vis reported.
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.
"The investigation is ongoing," said a spokesperson for the OM. "We do not want to provide more information for that reason."
In July, the police arrested a 28-year-old man from Eindhoven on suspicion of selling "suicide powder" to hundreds of people. He was a member of Coöperatie Laatste Wil. According to the judiciary, at least six people died from the drug provided by the man. The investigation against the man started after the death of a woman in Best, in May this year. It is not yet clear whether the investigation into Van Wijk and that into the Eindhoven resident are related.
Van Wijk "with great emphasis distances himself from the allegation", said Vis. "He deeply regrets the arrest. He would have liked to have explained in a different way. It pains him a lot that the cooperative and thus its 27,500 members are criminalized in this way."
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.
Coöperatie Laatste Wil was founded in 2013 and wants to make it possible within the law for people to end their own lives in a dignified and safe way.
Reporting by ANP