Bioethics Blogs

Double Dutch euthanasia evokes sympathy through age and romance

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.
– Romeo & Juliet, Act 5, Scene 3

In a scene reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, a Dutch couple were voluntarily euthanized together after sharing their final kiss. Nic Elderhorst, 91, had a stroke 5 years ago that left him with limited mobility and chronic pain. Trees, 91, his wife and primary caregiver, had declining physical health and was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She feared that she could no longer care for him. Both feared living without the other and had stated for a long time that they had hoped to die together.

Headlines around the world focused on the romance of their euthanasia. “Dying Together was their deepest wish” declared one British paper. Another said “Loving couple, 91, pass away in rare double euthanasia” not only showing the romance, but changing the active process of killing to the metaphor of “passing away.” “Elderly couple got ‘deepest wish’ declared the Washington Post. “Elderly couple kiss, hold hands before double-euthanasia” was published in New Zealand.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world that permits voluntary euthanasia, where a physician administers a drug to fulfill a person’s request to end his/her life. To qualify, a patient must make a considered request, have unbearable and hopeless suffering, be informed about the situation and future possibilities, and have no reasonable alternatives. Thus, a person does need to have a “terminal illness” or “irreversible condition” in order to request and receive life-ending procedures.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.