Over the weekend, news came out of Belgium of a grim and bizarre new “twist” in that Country’s euthanasia practice. According to reports, two 45-year-old twins were killed by lethal injection per their request (AKA “euthanized”). They were both deaf and it’s said they were both gradually losing their vision.
From ABC News:
Two deaf twin brothers in Belgium were euthanized by their doctor after realizing they were going blind and would be unable to see each other ever again, their physician says.
The 45-year-old men, whose names have not been made public, were legally put to death by lethal injection at the Brussels University Hospital in Jette, on Dec. 14.
The men, who were born deaf, had a cup of coffee and said goodbye to other family members before walking into hospital room together to die, their doctor told Belgian television station RTL.
“They were very happy. It was a relief to see the end of their suffering,” said Dr. David Dufour.
“They had a cup of coffee in the hall. It went well and a rich conversation. Then the separation from their parents and brother was very serene and beautiful,” he said. “At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone,”
I used the ABC report for an important reason; reporter Russell Goldman looks to be the only reporter who has correctly stated that “suffering” – not pain – is an important criterion for “eligibility” for euthanasia, although he does err in implying that it’s “unique” to see non-terminally ill people qualify for euthanasia in Belgium:
The brothers are unique in that their illness was not terminal. Belgian law, however, allows doctors to euthanize “suffering” patients who are both mentally sound, over 18 and want to die.
Right now, there’s conflicting information coming out in pieces in various news articles. I fully expect to revisit this as (I hope) individuals and organizations in the deaf, blind, and deaf-blind communities react.
There’s a pretty strong response from deaf-blind advocate, speaker and blogger “Coco,” who is pretty clear that this was not only a bad thing for the two men who were killed, but for other deaf, blind and deaf-blind people. She writes a blog titled “Tactile The World” and her latest post is here:
I have not blogged in a while, life took its course. However, this topic is tragically urgent, something has to be addressed and discussed in the worldwide Deafblind community.
Two twins, both Deaf men, from Putte, Belgium (30 miles from Brussels) won the legal right to be euthanized (put to death legally by Belgian doctors) after citing their unbearable burden of going blind.
The Bangkok Post reported this and it became widespread, and then a French Belgian newspaper L’Avenir.net made their rounds about this story. Just now the Telegraph has written a more detailed article.
The twins, both shoemakers, had an unidentified eye disease that would take their sight in a few years (Usher Syndrome???) and at 45 years old, they requested the agreement of Belgian doctors despite not being diagnosed with a terminal illness or a physical disease. They were approved because it was “an unbearable suffering”….
She goes on to talk about response:
I wonder if the inevitable outcome of this tragedy would mean that more and more Deafblind, and other disabled people who don’t have a terminal illness or a physical disease, would follow suit and opt for ‘mercy killing’ and euthanasia because they have this conviction that they are, in theory, dying as a person when they think that the most vital sense is diminishing? Would this lead to an unnecessary ‘self-massacre’ of Deafblind people who, in their depressed state, think they aren’t able?
I am curious what Feviado, and the Belgian French/Flemish Deafblind community is going to do about this?
My strong suggestion is for those Db in Belgium to take a stand on this, denounce the euthanasia of Deafblind people, talk to newspapers and television about how Deafblind are able to do things granted Belgian government provides access and funding for Deafblind support services.
I agree with Coco – the Deaf-blind organization in Belgium should speak out on this. In fact, I think it would be a big mistake for organizations and individuals outside of Belgium not to speak out about this double-killing. Otherwise, the discussion will be dominated by Belgian euthanasia apologists, euthanasia advocates of all stripes, and bioethicists talking out the “problem” of “extreme” cases. And then everyone will forget – until the next and more extreme killing comes along.
Please visit and read the entire original blog – “Belgian Deafblind Twins Euthanized!” and read the comments, which so far are in agreement with the points she’s made.