Former Dutch Prime Minister opts for couples euthanasia with wife

Former Dutch Prime Minister opts for couples euthanasia with wife

Dries van Agt, the former prime minister of the Netherlands from 1977 until 1982, has died hand in hand with his wife Eugenie. The couple, who were both 93 years old and suffering from ill health, had decided on euthanasia together. 

Former Dutch politician opts for euthanasia

While euthanasia does not seem to fit the values expected from a Catholic and former Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) member, Van Agt is said to have always made his own decisions and had become more progressive over the years. After suffering a severe brain haemorrhage in 2019, the former Dutch prime minister told Gerard Jonkman, director of The Rights Forum, that “euthanasia was an option if life and suffering became unbearable”.

The health of Van Agt and his wife, to whom he was married for 70 years, had deteriorated rapidly in the lead-up to their decision for euthanasia. They were both very ill, but also “could not live without each other,” Jonkman told NOS.

Euthanasia for couples in the Netherlands more common

The chairperson of the Dutch Association for Voluntary Euthanasia (NVVE), Fransien van ter Beek, said that it was not uncommon to see couples in the Netherlands who wished to be euthanised together. "But the implementation does not happen very often, because it is not an easy path," said Van ter Beek.

Each person in the couple has to be assessed separately and the most important requirement is that there is “hopeless and unbearable suffering, and the request must be voluntary and well-considered”. There are often two doctors so that partners die at the same time. 

In 2022, 29 couples made the choice for joint euthanasia in the Netherlands - almost double the number of 16 couples in 2021. It is still a small percentage of the total 9.000 times euthanasia was chosen that year, but there has been a definite increase in recent years. “Especially after a lifetime together in which people have become fused with each other," said Van ter Beek. "You no longer have to experience the death of the other, so you save yourself the grief."

Simone Jacobs


Simone Jacobs

Simone is originally from South Africa, where she studied Genetics and Zoology. She enjoys reading, hiking and animal training.

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