Report: Twin deaf brothers going blind undergo euthanasia

AP

A court reportedly granted deaf identical twin brothers from Belgium who were about to lose their sight the right to legal euthanasia.

A UZ Brussel hospital spokesperson told Reuters that a doctor administered the lethal injections to 45-year-old twins named Marc and Eddy Verbessem. They had said they wanted to die because they "could no longer bear being unable to hear or see the other."

In order to be allowed to pursue euthanasia, patients in Belgium -- where euthanasia has been legal since 2002 -- must be sound of judgment and must repeatedly and overwhelmingly emphasize their voluntarily want to die, Reuters reported. They must also be suffering persistent and unbearable physical or mental pain beyond physical help, and the illness must be serious and incurable and brought on by sickness or injury.

Despite euthanasia being legal in the country, this case caught the attention of the media because the two brothers were not terminally ill or close to the end of their lives.

"Unbearable suffering can be mental as well as physical," the hospital spokesman said. "The brothers were inseparable. They lived together and had the same job."

The brothers were first turned down by their local hospital and the process took two years before they gained legal approval for euthanasia.

Dr. David Dufour, the doctor for the twins, told the Telegraph that that they had congenital deafness and were soon to be fully blind due to a genetic form of glaucoma. In addition, they had other "severe" medical problems.

"All that together made life unbearable," said Dufor. "I have been very surprised but there is so much interest and debate about this."

The Telegraph reported that the brothers communicated with each other and their immediate family using a special sign language they developed.

"They lived together, did their own cooking and cleaning. You could eat off the floor," Dirk Verbessem, the twins' brother, said to the Telegraph. "Blindness would have made them completely dependent. They did not want to be in an institution."

Dirk added that although the family was opposed to the request to die, they eventually came around and supported the fact that the twins should be allowed to make their own decision.

"I tried to talk them out of it even at the last moment," Dirk said. "Together with my parents, I said goodbye. Marc and Eddy waved again at us. 'Up in the sky,' they said. 'Up in the sky,' we replied. And then it was over."

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