‘Duo euthanasia’ of former prime minister unveils growing trend in the Netherlands

There is concern that the romanticisation of “dying hand in hand” may lead to more cases of elderly couples choosing to apply for euthanasia together.

Evangelical Focus

AMSTERDAM · 20 FEBRUARY 2024 · 17:04 CET

An elderly couple sitting outdoors. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@elcuervo">Bruno Aguirre</a>, Unsplash, CC0.,
An elderly couple sitting outdoors. / Photo: Bruno Aguirre, Unsplash, CC0.

Netherlands is known worldwide for advancing assisted suicide policies that are often adopted in other countries later.

1 in 20 deaths in the Netherlands is due to euthanasia, nearly 7,000 in 2020. A “vast majority are elderly people”, and trends confirmed by the official Euthanasia Review Committee show that “the thought that euthanasia is an option in the case of hopeless suffering is very reassuring” for large parts of the population.

Recently, the government discussed a “completed life law” that would have allowed citizens aged 75 or more to request euthanasia to end their life without having a severe medical condition. Two years ago, the Dutch government also put on the table the possibility of offering euthanasia to children aged as young as one if they suffered unbearable pain.


‘Duo euthanasia’, dying together

The latest turn in the euthanasia debate in the Netherlands has been the death of a famous politician, Dries van Agt, who two weeks ago was euthanised the same day as his wife Eugenie.

They died “hand in hand”, according to a press release, both at the age of 93 and after a seven-decades long marriage. Van Agt had been a member of the Christian Democratic Party.

The prominence of the couple led to a conversation in the media in which some expressed their fear of a romanticisation of euthanasia while others applauded the ability of life partners to decide together how and when to die.

In 2016, another first-line politician and his wife died in this way, and according to news website Christian Network Europe, 29 couples in the Netherlands died together with a parallel euthanasia process in 2022 only.


Euthanasia as a way out of life?

Ethicist Stef Groenewoud told Dutch newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad he was worried that “when more and more cases are deemed to fulfil the criteria, couples will receive permission more easily to end their lives together, as it is called”.

But research from the Oxford University showed that liberal euthanasia and assisted suicide laws had unexpected effects in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. “Legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia will result in more people ending their lives prematurely”, the study found. “In all of the four jurisdictions, there have been very steep rises in suicide after the introduction of EAS [Euthanasia or assisted suicide]”.

Read more about euthanasia trends and Christian perspectives in European countries here.


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