Dutch court convicts man of helping stepmother take her life
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch appeals court on Wednesday convicted a man for helping his ailing, 99-year-old stepmother take her own life a decade ago, a case that has become a focal point in the fierce debate in the Netherlands about end-of-life issues.
The city court in Den Bosch gave Albert Heringa a suspended six-month sentence, meaning he will not go to prison unless he commits another crime.
The court said that while it was aware of the public debate about assisted suicide, it had to apply Dutch law as it currently stands.
The country’s euthanasia and assisted suicide association, known by its acronym NVVE, said it was “enormously disappointed” in the verdict.
“The NVVE is astonished that the court showed no sympathy at all for the position in which Albert Heringa found himself at the time,” the association said in a statement.
While euthanasia by a physician under strict conditions is legal in the Netherlands, helping someone take their own life is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine.
In its written ruling, the court acknowledged the debate in Dutch society about whether people who consider their lives “completed” should be able to get help to end their lives. The court, however, said it would not get involved in the debate.
“The court believes that a legal body cannot get ahead of a possible legislative process,” the ruling said. “That is why it won’t give an opinion on the question of whether offering help in dying to a person with a completed life should be permitted.”
Heringa was convicted in 2013 of giving his stepmother, who took her own life in June 2008, “a combination of medicines.” He was not punished, but an appeals court ordered a retrial.