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Faced with blindness, deaf twins choose euthanasia

A pair of adult identical twins in Belgium have been legally killed at their request, the men's doctor told journalists.
The 45-years-old men, who were born deaf, spent their lives side-by-side — growing up together and then, as adults, sharing an apartment and working as cobblers together, according to Belgian media reports.
The men’s names have not been released but photographs of the identical twins from the Antwerp region have been made available to some media outlets.
Their doctor, David Dufour, told Belgium’s RTL Television over the weekend that the two men had been losing their eyesight for several years and soon would have been completely blind. The prospect of being blind as well as deaf was unbearable to them, he said.


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"They were fully aware of their decision," Dufour said.
After winning approval from the necessary authorities, the two men received lethal injections at a Belgian hospital in December.
Dufour described their last moments: "They had a last cup of coffee and everything was fine. They said goodbye to their parents and brother and all was serene. They waved — and that was that."
Under a 2002 law, Belgians are allowed to end their own lives if a doctor judges an individual has made his or her wishes clear and is suffering unbearable pain.
The case of the twins was unusual because the two men were not approaching the end of their natural lives nor were they terminally ill.
But Jacqueline Herremans, a member of the Belgian Commission of Euthanasia, told RTL that they did meet the legal requirements as their suffering was grave and incurable. When they became blind as well as deaf, he said, they would not have been able to lead autonomous lives, and that with only a sense of touch they had no prospects of a future.
She acknowledged this was an exceptional case.
"Evidently they had a particular destiny. They were two human beings who have lived together, grown up together, worked together and wanted to die together. Their suffering may not have been physical, but there was psychological suffering," she said.
In 2010 and 2011, a total of 2,086 people died by euthanasia in Belgium, according to the country’s Euthanasia Commission.
Belgium is now looking at introducing a legal amendment that would allow children and those with dementia the option of seeking permission to die. If passed later this year, the option of euthanasia will be extended to minors affected by an incurable illness, or suffering that cannot be alleviated.

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/14/16507519-faced-with-blindness-deaf-twins-choose-euthanasia
10 Responses
Avatar universal
What a sad story.  It must be horrible to face the prospect of losing their sight, their independence, their ability to communicate.  Heartbreaking.  I feel for their loved ones.  How difficult it must be to see that suffering and be unable to help.  

I wonder if they will amend the law to make this available to patients with dementia?  That would be a dilemma for me, its so open to abuse and yet a prolonged life with dementia is such a terrible thing.  How could you ever be sure of the patient's true wishes?  

No easy answers here, I guess.
377493 tn?1356505749
I'll admit, I'm having a tough time with this.  I do believe under certain circumstances euthenasia should be legal.  For me though, it would have to be a terminal situation or seriously disabling pain.  I feel that people can have a good quality of life being both deaf and blind, and would have rather seen different options offered.  That being said, who am I to make that choice for someone?  I don't know, I guess I have to strong a desire to live and cannot imagine that making me want to die.  It is hard for me to understand.

As for children...I have to put thought into that.   As a mother I would never want my child to suffer, but I guess I also believe that where there is life there is hope and would again want to fight for my childs life.  Tough thing to decide.  

I need to think more about this whole story I guess.
206807 tn?1331939784
I’ve been though some very Dark Times. Though I’ve never Entertained the Thought of “Checking Out”, I understand.
Avatar universal
Its difficult to know what to feel about this.  I have been through some health stuff, some of it very very dark.  I never thought of checking out, I was too busy fighting for my life.  But if I were to find myself in circumstances where I was faced with merely existing, I would like to have the option to choose a dignified end.

Its awful to imagine having to make that choice, though.  
1530342 tn?1405020090
"But if I were to find myself in circumstances where I was faced with merely existing, I would like to have the option to choose a dignified end."

So true!...I think this is why they made their decision..
585414 tn?1288944902
  I would tend to disagree but I understand and respect people's opinions. Physician assisted suicide can be one thing but euthanasia is more direct and the descriptions of the law appear to be going in a direction thats of concern. Originally this was meant for a person who only  had 6 months or less to live or was in intractable pain.
  I.  The end of the article concrned me":Belgium is now looking at introducing a legal amendment that would allow children and those with dementia the option of seeking permission to die. If passed later this year, the option of euthanasia will be extended to minors affected by an incurable illness, or suffering that cannot be alleviated." That type of decision making could easily lead to abuse. I have family members with dementia who do enjoy their lives. I have dementia and at times having to cop with it has given me suicidal ideations. I dont want someone facilitating
a decision like that for me but rather to help me live a fuller life whch is what m doctors are helping me with.
   think the experience described by the two people in the article was horrific but over time they might have changed their opinion.  The most important thing for me is to have appropriate accommodations so people with disabilities can live their live to the fullest, appropriate treatment and for people at the end of life appropriate palliative care. If people would want specific decisions about what should happen
at the end of their life, should they develop any specific condtions that mght severely
effect their life or lose decision making capacities then they should have health
care proxies and advanced directives written. This choice already exists
these are worthwhile things for everyone to have and the law could be changed
to modify optons to reflect concerns.
377493 tn?1356505749
You expressed that perfectly - that is very much how I felt reading this article but I couldn't find the words.  Well said.
Avatar universal
Health care proxy and advance directives are certainly useful but they do not address situations where the patient wishes to end his or her life.  My elderly mother had dementia, and the last several years of her life were horrible.  Long before she lost her ability to choose she begged me not to let her live under those conditions.  Although I had her medical power of attorney, there is no provision under our laws that would allow me to carry out her wishes.  As a result I and my sisters were helpless to do anything for her except watch the disease take everything from her.  It was horrible and I will always feel guilty that I did not find some way to end her suffering.
1310633 tn?1430227691
I'd certainly like the option to "off" myself, if circumstances were such that my life had become no-life (ie: terminal, brain-dead, etc).

~Some of you might argue that I should take the option now, as I already AM brain-dead, but I beg to differ (ha, ha;-). *Just thought I'd beat you to the punch~

In seriousness, although I agree with a person's right to chose whether they "go on", or "not go on", I'm in agreement with ILADVOCATE, in that there is room for abuse (once legislation is passed).

People will always find "loopholes" whenever something is written into law... no?

Sad story, but I'm happy for the (2) men, that they are finally at peace. Who am I to judge? "Happiness" is an extremely subjective term, and one person's definition may differ VASTLY with another's.

THEIR definition of happiness, was non-existence.
Avatar universal
I am a mere coward. I don't think this is a good thing that is grabbing hold of us. How does one know how they will feel tomorrow upon waking? I might feel like dying today, but tomorrow? Maybe I would have a different perspective and it is scary to think that how long before the powers that be, start making those decisions for different segments of society that they deem baggage on society. Oh I'm thinking out loud here but to be or not to be, is a good way to put it.
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