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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife die in joint euthanasia

BarcelonaThe former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt has died holding the hand of his wife Eugenie, in a joint euthanasia. Both were 93 years old. The deaths were announced by The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian group that Van Agt had created in his later, more left-wing years, which said they had left “together and holding hands”. The director of the entity, Gerard Jonkman, told a local station last week that Van Agt and his wife were very ill and that they “couldn’t live without each other”. Van Agt, who was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1977 to 1982, never fully recovered from a brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2019.

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Van Agt had been with his wife Eugenie for 70 years, whom he met during their student days in Nijmegen, in the east of the country, and since then they were inseparable: she accompanied and advised him during his stage as Minister of Justice (1971-1977), of Foreign Affairs (1982) and as Prime Minister of three cabinets between 1977 and 1982, as reported by Efe. He was also by his side when he founded The Rights Forum in 2009, a center for knowledge about Israel and Palestine, where he tried to materialize the search for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, a search to which he dedicated himself body and soul since who visited the West Bank in 1999. Together they traveled the world for work, and were inseparable for decades, which is also why they were clear that they did not want to live without each other.

On February 5, both aged 93 and in poor health, surrounded by their loved ones, died “holding hands” after undergoing euthanasia together, according to Fransien van ter Beek’s announcement, president of the Dutch Association for the Voluntary End of Life (NVVE, in the Dutch acronym).

Coupled euthanasia is uncommon in assisted dying in the Netherlands, but is a growing trend. In 2022, the latest year for which official figures are available, there were almost 9,000 euthanasias in the Netherlands, including those of 29 couples, i.e. 58 people in total. In 2021 there were 16 couples, and in 2020, 13. The percentage is small, but increasing, according to data from the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees (RTE). “It doesn’t happen very often, because it’s not an easy road,” Van ter Beek told NOS. Doctors study a couple’s request as two individual processes and are subject to the conditions of any other case.

Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002, but it is allowed under very strict conditions and can only be done under medical supervision, so any other way of helping someone to commit suicide is considered illegal. The requirements require that the decision be “voluntary and well thought out”, in the face of “unbearable and desperate suffering”, and that “there is no reasonable alternative”.

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