Roving euthanasia teams have been launched in the Netherlands, where the terminally ill can be helped to die in their own homes free of charge.
The scheme, which came into force earlier this month, is aimed at those whose regular doctors are unable or refuse to help them die. It is run by the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life (NVVE).
However, the Royal Dutch Society of Doctors said it seriously doubted whether the mobile doctors could form a close enough relationship with the patients to decide whether assisted suicide should be carried out.
NVVE said it had already received 70 phone calls from potential assisted-suicide patients since the home euthanasia initiative was announced in early February.
It added that the mobile teams expected to receive around 1,000 requests each year.
An NVVE spokesman said: “They will first give the patient an injection, which will put them into a deep sleep, then a second injection follows, which will stop their breathing and heartbeat”.
An estimated 3,000 assisted suicides are carried out in the Netherlands each year, but opponents claim the figure is much higher because many cases are not registered.
Legal guidelines state that the person must be incurably sick, be suffering unbearable pain and have expressed the wish to die voluntarily, clearly and on several occasions.
Edith Schippers, the Dutch Health Minister, said she was confident the new scheme would comply with the regulations.
The Netherlands became the first country to legalise euthanasia in 2002, but doctors cannot be forced to comply with patients’ wishes.
The news comes as Margo MacDonald MSP begins her second attempt to overturn the law on assisted suicide in Scotland.
Her first attempt at the Scottish Parliament was soundly rejected in 2010 by 85 votes to 16.