The pair identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86 from Brussels fear loneliness if the other one dies first so with the backing of their three children they are planning to die in first ‘couple’ euthanasia.
Francis has received treatment for prostate cancer for 20 years and is unable to spend a day without morphine and Anne is partially blind and almost totally deaf.
The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple’s mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.
They decided that life in a care home was not an option because of their fear they would end up bedridden without the strength to insist on euthanasia. They are also afraid that a good retirement home would cost more than their combined pensions and that they would have to dig into their savings to afford it.
They planned to commit suicide on February 3 next year, their 64th wedding anniversary, by placing plastic bags over their heads after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
‘We want to go together because we both fear of the future,’ said Francis. ‘It’s as simple as this: we are afraid of what lies ahead. ‘Fear of being alone and above all, fear of the consequences of loneliness.’
He told Moustique, a Belgian online news service, that they eventually opted for euthanasia because they were too scared to attempt to commit suicide. ‘It takes courage to jump from the 20th floor and I am unable even if I wanted to do it,’ said Francis.
‘It takes courage to hang, it takes courage to jump into the canal. But a doctor who makes you a shot and lets you gently fall asleep? It does not take courage.’
Their son, John Paul, 55, approached their doctor to request their euthanasia – which was legalised in Belgium in 2002 – but the doctor refused because there were no grounds for it.
John Paul found another doctor willing to perform the killings in an unnamed hospital in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium in which 82 per cent of euthanasia cases are performed.
Francis said he and Anne were grateful for the arrangement. ‘Without our son and our daughter, it would never have succeeded,’ he said. ‘We are not sad, we are happy,’ he continued. ‘When we were told we could leave life together smoothly we were on a little cloud. It was as if we had spent all that time in a tunnel and suddenly we came into the light again.’
The couple’s daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.
John Paul said the double euthanasia of his parents was the ‘best solution’.
‘If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,’ he said. ‘It would be impossible for us to come here every day, take care of our father or our mother.’
The double euthanasia will not be first in Belgium, a country where an average of five people a day die by lethal injection.