Europe

Saturday 12 July 2014

Belgian twins had first request to die turned down

Bruno Waterfield Brussels

Published 15/01/2013|05:00

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MARC and Eddy Verbessem, the two deaf twins killed by legal euthanasia in Belgium, had their first requests to die refused in their local hospital.

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The two men (45), from the village of Putte, near the city of Mechelen outside Brussels, were both born deaf and sought euthanasia after finding that they would also soon go blind.

But their local hospital refused to end their lives by lethal injection because doctors there did not accept the twins were suffering unbearable pain – the criteria for legal euthanasia under Belgian law.

"If any blind or deaf are allowed to euthanise, we are far from home. I do not think this was what the legislation meant by 'unbearable suffering'," doctors at the first hospital said.

Eventually, the two brothers found doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette, who accepted their argument that they were unable to bear the thought of not being able to see each other again. The twin brothers had spent their entire lives together, sharing a flat and both working as cobblers.

Doctors "euthanised" the two men by lethal injection on December 14, and because the operation took place outside their local hospital each man was billed €180 for transporting their bodies home.

Neighbours and friends in the village of Putte said the twins had to overcome strong resistance from their elderly parents.

But Dirk Verbessem, older brother of Marc and Eddy, had defended his brothers' decision. "Many will wonder why my brothers have opted for euthanasia because there are plenty of deaf and blind that have a 'normal' life," he said. "But my brothers trudged from one disease to another. They were really out."

Mr Verbessem said his brothers were going blind with glaucoma and that Eddy had a deformed spine and had recently undergone heart surgery.

Professor Wim Distelmans, the doctor who took the decision to "euthanise" the brothers, said: "It is certain that the twins meet all the conditions for euthanasia."

However, Chris Gastmans, professor of medical ethics at the Catholic University of Leuven, has criticised the decision.

"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. We must find another caring way to deal with human frailty." (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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