Dutch couple dies in dual euthanasia… and neither had a terminal diagnosis


A couple in the Netherlands is making headlines for their decision to die together by euthanasia, even though neither had a terminal illness.

Jan Faber and his wife Els van Leeningen had been married for nearly 50 years before their deaths in early June. At that time, Jan had been living with chronic back pain for decades, while Els had been diagnosed with dementia. They ultimately opted for euthanasia — something Jan had reportedly been talking about for years — and were approved, even with Els’ rapidly declining cognitive abilities raising red flags as to whether or not she could truly consent.

“If you take a lot of medicine, you live like a zombie,” Jan reportedly explained. “So, with the pain I have, and Els’ illness, I think we have to stop [living].”

“I’ve lived my life, I don’t want pain anymore,” he added. “The life we’ve lived, we’re getting old. We think it has to be stopped.”

“There is no other solution,” Els said.

READ: Transgender-identifying individual seeks euthanasia for post-surgical pain and regret

According to the Daily Mail, the couple’s physician was uncomfortable giving his approval for the assisted death because of Els’ dementia. So, the couple instead turned to the Centre of Expertise on Euthanasia, an organization devoted to helping people end their lives.

Their son, who didn’t want to be identified, noted the difficulty he had in watching both his parents die.

“I remember we were having dinner in the evening, and I got tears in my eyes just watching us all having that final dinner together,” he said. “The final half hour was difficult. The doctors arrived and everything happened quickly – they follow their routine, and then it’s just a matter of minutes.”

The notion of couples dying together by euthanasia has been romanticized in the media, especially following the deaths earlier this year of former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife Eugenie, who were killed while holding hands.

Couples euthanasia has been increasing. In 2021, 16 couples died together by euthanasia in the Netherlands alone compared to nine in 2018. Yet there is nothing romantic or peaceful about euthanasia, which uses a lethal injection of a paralytic drug that may cause the person to actually end up drowning. Though the person may look peaceful outwardly, the death can actually be extremely painful.

Dr. Theo Boer, professor of healthcare ethics at the Protestant Theological University, told the BBC he is worried about this trend in dual euthanasia, especially as the practice becomes more widespread.

“In the past year we’ve seen dozens of cases of duo-euthanasia, and there’s a general tendency to ‘hero-ify’ dying together,” he warned. “But the taboo on intentional killing – that’s eroding, and especially when it comes to duo-euthanasia.”

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