January 14, 2013 – 10:48AM
Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Identical twins have been killed by Belgian doctors in a unique case under the country’s euthanasia laws.
The 45-year-old brothers from the Antwerp region were born deaf and sought euthanasia after finding that they would also soon go blind.
They were very happy. It was a relief to see the end of their suffering.
They told doctors that they were unable to bear the thought of not being able to see each other again.
The twins, who have not been named but have been pictured on Belgian television, had spent their entire lives together, sharing a flat and working as cobblers.
Belgium’s Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper reported at the weekend that doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette “euthanised” the two men by lethal injection on December 14.
Under Belgian law, euthanasia is allowed if those wishing to end their lives are able to make their wishes clear and a doctor judges that they are suffering unbearable pain.
David Dufour, the doctor who presided over the euthanasia, said the twins had died together and had taken the decision in “full conscience”.
“They were very happy. It was a relief to see the end of their suffering,” he said. “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. At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone.”
The case is unusual because neither of the men was terminally ill or suffering extreme physical pain.
Just days after the twins were killed by doctors, Belgium’s ruling Socialists tabled a legal amendment that will allow the euthanasia of children and Alzheimer’s sufferers. The controversial change will allow minors and people suffering from dementia to seek permission to die. “The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases,” said Thierry Giet, the Socialist leader.
If passed later this year, the law will allow euthanasia to be “extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate”.
In 2002, Belgium was the second country in the world after Holland to legalise euthanasia, but the law now applies only to people over 18. Some 1133 cases of euthanasia – mostly for terminal cancer – were recorded in 2011, according to the last official figures.
Last December, the Belgium-based European Institute of Bioethics published a report raising concerns about “the absence of any effective control” over euthanasia and “ever-widening interpretation” of the law. It noted that in 10 years and 5500 euthanasia cases, not one had been referred to police for investigation.