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Couple choose to die together in ‘duo-euthanasia’ after being married for nearly five decades

Couple choose to die together in ‘duo-euthanasia’ after being married for nearly five decades

The couple left behind their only child when they chose to pass away

Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide which some readers may find distressing

A Dutch couple who were happily married for almost 50 years chose to end their lives together through assisted suicide.

At the ages of just 70 and 71 - young in terms of the average life expectancy for men in the Netherlands being 80 and women 83 - Jan and Els were given a lethal injection last month.

It came after the 70-year-old Jan explained how he and his wife explained the reasoning behind their decision to their only child, who told the BBC that he wished to remain anonymous, meaning their surnames were withdrawn.

The fatal dose was provided to them simultaneously by two doctors so that they could pass together - known as duo-euthanasia, and it is completely legal in their home country of the Netherlands - although extremely rare.

Jan and Els, of the Netherlands, were each given a lethal injection last month. (Getty Stock Image)
Jan and Els, of the Netherlands, were each given a lethal injection last month. (Getty Stock Image)

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal only if the criteria laid down in the Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act are fully observed, the Netherlands' government website explains.

This requires the patient to see euthanasia as 'the only escape from the situation',

As for Jan and Els, they both suffered with lasting problems. For Jan, it was his chronic back pain, and Els had dementia, which meant she found it difficult to formulate sentences.

Speaking to the BBC before their passing, she pointed at her body and said 'this is very good', and then to her head to say 'but this is terrible'.

Their lives were the polar opposite of how they were when they were younger - Jan represented his country on the hockey field and later became a sports coach, while Els was a primary school teacher.

Jans suffered from chronic back pain while Els had been diagnosed with dementia. (Getty Stock Image)
Jans suffered from chronic back pain while Els had been diagnosed with dementia. (Getty Stock Image)

She taught children how to formulate their sentences, and he was an athlete.

In 2003, more than a decade after switching vocations to work on a cargo ship due to his and Els' love of the water - during which time the pair welcomed their only son - he underwent surgery on his back to no avail.

He could no longer work and occasionally spoke of euthanasia to Els, who was till teaching up until 2018.

After retirement, she showed early signs of dementia, but due to her father's diagnosis of Alzheimer's, and seeing how it changed him, she was reluctant to get tested.

The couple, who met in kindergarten, signed on to the NVVE – the Netherlands’ 'right to die' organisation.

Jan said: “If you take a lot of medicine, you live like a zombie. So, with the pain I have, and Els’ illness, I think we have to stop this.”

The couple saw assisted suicide as the only way to end their suffering. (Getty Stock Image)
The couple saw assisted suicide as the only way to end their suffering. (Getty Stock Image)

By 'stop this', he meant end their lives.

He continued: "I’ve lived my life, I don’t want pain anymore. The life we’ve lived, we’re getting old. We think it has to be stopped.”

But the reason they decided to go now was because according to doctors, Els still had capacity to decide for herself. But if they left it any longer she may not have been able to.

Els added: "There is no other solution."

Jan and Els are not alone; just last year in the Netherlands, 9,068 people died through assisted suicide - 66 came through duo-euthanasia, meaning there were 33 cases of pairs wanting to pass away together.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in a mental health crisis, help is available through Mental Health America. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Image

Topics: Netherlands, Mental Health