AMSTERDAM, January 2, 2002 ( – The law to legalize euthanasia by lethal injection, approved in the Dutch parliament last April, took effect yesterday, giving the Netherlands the notorious distinction of being the first country in the world to legalize the practice. While the practice was tolerated for decades in the country, with doctors practicing it hardly ever facing censure, the debate over official legalization garnered attention.

About 10,000 pro-life protesters surrounded the parliament building, praying, singing hymns and quoting the Bible during deliberations on the day of the vote. The parliamentarians rejected tens of thousands of letters urging them to vote against the bill and a petition of 25,000 signatures submitted by the pro-life group “Cry for Life”.

Just weeks after the law was approved, the Dutch Health Minister pushed for allowing a suicide pill for non-terminally ill patients. The debate over this next stage is now underway in the Netherlands.

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