Till death do them part: After living together for seven decades, a famous couple from the Netherlands chose “double euthanasia”

The process of access to dual euthanasia in the Netherlands requires a rigorous review process (Radboud University)

have a commitment “until death do us part”, But for former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife Eugenie, the goal is to leave this life the same way they spent the last seven decades: together.

The 93-year-old couple died “hand in hand” earlier this month, according to a statement from Rights Forum, the pro-Palestinian organization founded by Dries van Agt. Both decided to die in what is known as “double euthanasia”, a growing trend in the Netherlands. In recent years a small number of couples have managed to fulfill their wish to die together, usually by lethal dose of drugs.

Van Agt, a long-serving politician who had conservative roots but campaigned for a number of liberal causes, served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1977 to 1982. He later became the European Union’s ambassador to Japan and the United States. joined in.

Dries Van Agt (EPA/Marcel Van Hoorn)

Photographs of the couple during their decades as public figures often show them walking together: waving to the crowd from a car window, voting together at an election site and sharing a kiss at a public event. doing.

Dutch public radio reported that Van Agts’ health had deteriorated in recent years. We, The former prime minister never fully recovered after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2019, which occurred while he was giving a speech at a memorial event for Palestinians. Eugenie’s health problems were kept largely private.

“I think it’s, in some ways, beautiful, honestly, that you’ve spent your life together, you’re both seriously ill and with no chance of getting better, you’re ready to go and you Would like to go together, said Maria Karpiak, director of the gerontology program at California State University at Long Beach.

When it comes to the right to choose one’s own death, the Netherlands is “kind of a model” for any U.S. legislation on the issue, he said.

Dries Van Agt and his wife (BN)

At least 29 couples, or 58 people, died together through double euthanasia in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available from the country’s regional euthanasia review committees. This is more than double the 13 couples who did so in 2020, when the committee began looking specifically at couples, but still represents only a small part of the 8,720 people who received euthanasia or euthanasia in the Netherlands that year. Died legally by assisted suicide.

“This is likely to happen more and more often,” said Rob Edens, press officer for NVVE, a Dutch organization focused on research, advocacy and education on assisted suicide and euthanasia in the Netherlands.

“We still see reluctance among doctors to provide euthanasia based on the accumulation of age-related conditions. But it is permitted under the country’s legal guidelines,” he said in an email.

Assisted suicide occurs when a person takes a lethal dose themselves in the presence of a doctor, while euthanasia occurs when a medical professional administers the dose. Both are legal in the Netherlands if certain criteria are met. (Some groups prefer the term “medical assistance in dying” or MAID due to religious and social stigma surrounding suicide.)

Euthanasia is illegal in the United States, but assisted suicide is allowed in DC and at least 10 states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico. Eligibility requirements are strict across the country, but there are differences between jurisdictions, Karpiak said.

The Netherlands, a country of about 18 million people, has allowed assisted suicide and euthanasia since 2002. It requires people to voluntarily request the termination of their lives “for good,” with a doctor’s approval that they are experiencing “unbearable suffering with no possibility of improvement.”

Then another doctor must agree that the person is eligible, and the doctor can choose whether to participate in the procedure. After each death, doctors are required to notify a regional review committee, which examines whether each case was handled legally. Couples seeking dual euthanasia must apply and go through the review process individually with different doctors.

“The accumulation of age-related complaints can lead to unbearable and frustrating suffering,” Edens said, explaining the Dutch guidelines. “The hope is that if doctors become more willing to perform euthanasia when old age complaints pile up, the number of double euthanasia cases will increase.”

Research shows older Americans have higher risk of dying after losing a spouseEspecially in the first months after his death.

Although the reason for this phenomenon is unclear, studies have shown that grieving spouses have higher rates of inflammation and are at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, often due to stress-induced changes in blood pressure. Is. Blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting.

“The first thing that came to mind was the impact of widowhood.”Karpiak said, referring to the Van Agtes’ choice to die by double euthanasia. “I have a grandmother who is 96 years old, and she says, ‘I’m not going anywhere!’ But if I had a partner and that person was my everything, and we were both at the end of our lives, would it be worth it if he or she went on without me? Would I die from what I call a broken heart? Would you agree? “I want an option,” he said.

Washington Post

Kelly Kasulis Cho is a breaking news reporter and editor at The Washington Post, based in Seoul. Before that, he spent four years covering North and South Korea as a freelance foreign correspondent, and also worked at The New York Times and Bloomberg BNA.

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