Mobile Dutch euthanasia clinic swamped with requests

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch mobile euthanasia clinics that began offering assisted death in people’s homes last week received nearly 60 requests within their two first days of operation, Dutch daily De Volkskrant reported Saturday.

On Thursday, six mobile Levenseinde (Life End) units went into operation around the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002.

Petra de Jong, director of the Dutch right-to-die foundation NVVE which runs the mobile service, told De Volkskrant that patients were “grateful.”

The six teams of doctors and nurses provided assisted deaths, either by lethal injection or by administering a lethal cocktail of drugs, to patients whose own doctors have refused to help them die.

“Some of them start crying on the phone,” De Jong said.

“They seemed happy that, finally, someone is listening to them,” she said.

In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to allow regulated euthanasia, meaning doctors can terminate the lives of seriously ill patients who express a wish to die, without fear of prosecution.

Strict medical codes of practice apply.

Euthanasia can only be carried out on patients who suffer unbearable pain caused by an incurable disease, who have no hope of recovery. The patients must also clearly manifest a desire to die, among other conditions.

Many doctors refuse to practice euthanasia, mainly for religious reasons.

Opponents of euthanasia have reacted furiously to the launch of the mobile units, referring to them as “death squads.”

De Jong said most of the requests come from patients with incurable physical illnesses. Only a small number came from patients with serious psychological disorders, she assured.

“If the number of requests continues growing at this rate, we’ll have to put in place more mobile teams in April,” she said.

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