Elderly Dutch couple die together in rare case of double euthanasia

'Dying together was their deepest wish,' their daughter says

Narjas Zatat
Monday 14 August 2017 16:32 BST
Stock image of elderly couple holding hands
Stock image of elderly couple holding hands (iStock)

An elderly couple have died in each other’s arms after their wish to pass away together by euthanasia was given the go-ahead.

Nic and Trees Elderhorst, who were both 91 years old, gave each other a last kiss before they died in the company of family and friends in their home in Didan, in the Netherlands, on 4 June.

Nic had suffered a stroke in 2012 which greatly decreased his mobility and meant he was in constant pain. Trees’ health had also diminished, and it became harder to care for her husband. In addition, her memory had also declined, and she was worried that she could no longer provide him with the care he needed.

The knowledge left them both bereft, and though they had the help of friends, family and neighbours, they were afraid that if one of them died, the other’s health would collapse in a care home.

Under current Dutch law, euthanasia by doctors is only legal under very strict circumstances. The patient has to prove their case is one of “hopeless and unbearable suffering,” and usually means a serious medical condition.

After Nic’s stroke, Trees was diagnosed with vascular dementia – a progressive form of the disease that attacks memory, language and decision-making abilities. The couple decided to sign a euthanasia will and looked at how they could end their lives under the law.

“The geriatrician determined that our mother was still mentally competent. However, if our father were to die, she could become completely disoriented, ending up in a nursing home, something which she desperately did not want,” a daughter told local news, Daily Mail reports.

“Dying together was their deepest wish.”

Despite the legality of euthanasia, the couple had to spend six months with an ‘End of Life clinic’ where they were assessed separately by two teams of health professionals – including psychologists and psychotherapists as well as doctors – to confirm that they wanted to die.

According to local news outlets, this particular case is unique; couples are rarely in similar-enough health to both meet the conditions for euthanasia.

Dick Bosscher of the Dutch Association of Voluntarily Life Ending said: “It must be a coincidence when both people meet the demands for euthanasia at the same time.

“Dual requests are therefore rarely honoured.'

The Netherlands is looking at ways to make euthanasia available to anyone over the age of 75. In the UK, euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. The former is regarded either as manslaughter or murder, and the latter is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

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