A pair of 45-year-old deaf twins received legal euthanasia treatment from Belgian doctors after the brothers learned they were going blind — and decided they couldn't bear the thought of never seeing each other again.
A local hospital denied the twins' request for death because they were not suffering extreme pain and weren't terminally ill — criteria required for legal euthanasia under Belgium law.
But the twins were eventually given the okay for their life-ending treatment by doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette. The doctors killed both men by lethal injection on December 14 of last year. David Dufour, the doctor who presided over the twins' procedure, spoke to RTL television news and said the twins had taken their euthanasia decision in "full conscience." He also noted that they were both "very happy" and it was a "relief" to see an end to their suffering.
However, Professor Chris Gatmans of medical ethics at the Catholic University of Leuven, was critical of the doctors' decision to euthanise the twins:
Is this the only humane response that we can offer in such situations? I feel uncomfortable here as ethicist. Today it seems that euthanasia is the only right way to end life. And I think that's not a good thing. In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty.
Dirk Verbessem, the older brother of Marc and Eddy, spoke to The Telegraph and defended the twins' decision to die:
Many will wonder why my brothers have opted for euthanasia because there are plenty of deaf and blind that have a 'normal' life. But my brothers trudged from one disease to another. They were really worn out. The great fear that they would no longer be able to see, or hear, each other and the family was for my brothers unbearable.
Because the operation occurred outside their local hospital, the twins were billed 180 euros for the cost of transporting their dead bodies back home.
After the twins were killed, Belgium's ruling Socialists proposed a legal amendment that would allow the euthanasia of children and Alzheimer's victims. The draft legislation calls upon "the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate."
This amendment change is expected to be approved by other Belgium political parties. No date has been set for a parliamentary debate on the matter.