By Michael Cook
In the latest installment of a long-running case, the former head of the Dutch Voluntary Life Foundation (Stichting Vrijwillig Leven) has been found guilty of assisting in a suicide. Although euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands, there are some conditions and Gerard Schellekens, now 75, breached them when he counselled and then helped an 80-year-old woman to die in 2007. However, the court has given him a suspended sentence of 12 months in view of his bad health.
The doctors of the woman, who had Parkinson’s disease, had refused to help her die, so Schellekens, who is not a doctor, became involved. The court declared that he might have acted with a clear conscience and the best of intentions, but clearly outside the existing legal framework.
Mr Schellekens is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.
Editor’s note. This appeared at www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/9978 and is reprinted with permission