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Netherlands: Citizens Group Seeks New Right to Die

(Mar. 16, 2012) The House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) of the Dutch Parliament held a plenary session on March 8, 2012, concerning a citizen's initiative on euthanasia. The group Out of Free Will submitted the “Completed Life” initiative. The proposal calls for recognition of the right of all Dutch citizens over 70 years of age who are tired of life to be able to seek professional assistance in ending their lives. (Plenary Session About Citizens Initiative 'Completed Life,' The Dutch House of Representatives website (Mar. 8, 2012).)

Since 2002, euthanasia and assisted suicide have not been punishable as a crime in the Netherlands. However, according to the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act (the Euthanasia Act), “[e]uthanasia is only legal in cases of 'hopeless and unbearable suffering'. This means that in practice euthanasia is limited to those suffering from serious medical conditions and in considerable pain.” (Id.; Wettoetsing levensbeëindiging op verzoek en hulp bij zelfdoding (Euthanasiewet) [Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act (Euthanasia Act)] (in force on Apr. 1, 2002), RIGHT TO DIE-NL, & English translation, NVVE (last visited Mar. 15, 2012).)

A citizen's initiative (burgerinitiatief) requires at least 40,000 signatures in order to be accepted for consideration. Such initiatives are elaborated proposals on, for example, improving the education or transport system or simplifying or abrogating a rule. (Plenary Session About Citizens Initiative 'Completed Life,' supra.) A citizen's initiative submitted to the House of Representatives must:

  • concern a new issue that has not figured on the agenda on the agenda of the House of Representatives in the past two years;
  • fall within the competence of the House of Representatives, i.e., relate to a national, rather than a local government or private, issue;
  • be consistent with Dutch social norms and values; and
  • not pertain to the Constitution or to tax or budget bills. (Id.)