NR Digital

Western Suttee

by Diederik Boomsma & Jonathan Price

Against a ‘right’ to be killed

On March 30 of this year, a team of doctors euthanized a Belgian couple, at their request. The 83-year-old man suffered from terminal prostate cancer. His 78-year-old wife, although suffering from severe rheumatism, was not terminally ill. But she did not want to live without her husband. This became the first official, public instance of co-euthanasia in Western Europe. The death announcement that relatives placed in the newspaper stated that they “choose to end it together.”

Euthanasia is legal in the Low Countries under two conditions: The request must be made by an adult of sound mind, and the patient must have an incurable disease that causes unbearable suffering. Although there is no cure for rheumatism, the Belgian woman did not meet these conditions. However, she would have had to move to a nursing home after her husband was gone. So horrified was she by this prospect that, combined with her age-related ailments, it was deemed by the doctors to constitute “unbearable suffering.”

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