Huib Drion, a retired Dutch supreme court justice who prompted the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands, died on April 20. Cause of death was not released. He was 87.
Drion was a professor of civil law at the University of Leiden when he founded “De Geus,” a resistance newspaper published during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. The publication included black lists of university employees who collaborated with the Germans. At the time, students were executed for printing anti-Nazi leaflets.
From 1969 to 1984, Drion served as a member, and later vice-president, of the country’s supreme court. But once he retired from the bench, he published several essays on social and legal matters. One such paper, “Voluntary Death for Old People,” sparked a national debate in 1991.
Drion wrote that elderly people who were incurably sick should be able to visit their doctor and receive medication to end their lives. Known in the media as the “Last Wish Pill” or “Drion Pill,” the doctor-prescribed drug would be available for free to people over the age of 70. Drion also suggested that patients receive a combination of two pills to be ingested in one- or two-day intervals so the patient would have enough time to change his or her mind.
In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia for certain terminally ill patients. The Dutch law on doctor-assisted suicide requires patients over the age of 12 to show their decision to die is rational and reasoned, and that they’re subject to “unremitting and unbearable suffering.” A doctor must also be present during the suicide.