Untangling the media myths surrounding the deaths by lethal injection of identical twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem

By Dave Andrusko

Marc and Eddy Verbessem

Marc and Eddy Verbessem

I supposed it shouldn’t surprise anyone that something as surprising—and utterly tragic—as the deaths by euthanasia of  identical twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem would prompt some very powerful pro-life commentary. We’ve run several essays, including one today by Michael Cook: “Six lessons from death in Belgium.”  They are deeply moving and raise very disturbing questions.

I knew that the original reporting would be seriously wrong. Why? Because it had to put an awful, terrible outcome in the most favorable light possible. Mr. Cook debunks some of the mythology that already surrounds their deaths and fills in essential details that haven’t been talked about much, if at all.

For example, we know that the two brothers were unmarried and lived together for their entire adult lives. No doubt they were soulmates. Already deaf, when they learned they would lose their eyesight, and thus not be able to see one another, they were said to be inconsolable.

One of the very first questions we would ask is did they have any family still alive and how did their kin feel about their desire to be euthanized?

Here’s what The Daily Mail’s James Rush and Damien Gayle reported, based on what Dr. David Dufour, of Brussels University Hospital, told RTL television news. “They had a cup of coffee in the hall, it went well and a rich conversation,” Dufour said. “Then the separation from their parents and brother was very serene and beautiful,” he added. “At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone.”

This and other early accounts made it clear there was no opposition from the family. Unanimous. But as Cook explains, “Their family [the parents and a brother] opposed their decision” and two weeks before Christmas “reluctantly accompanied” Marc and Eddy to Brussels University Hospital.

Likewise, as far as I can tell, the impression left by most stories was that the brothers easily found doctors ready to administer a lethal injection. Not so. As Cook observes,  not only did the family object, “So did the local hospital. It took them [the brothers] nearly two years to find a doctor who was willing to administer a lethal injection under Belgium’s euthanasia law.”

Also when I read a number of accounts, I saw no evidence of any  right-to-die fingerprints. But in Cook’s very next sentence we read that the doctor who administered the injection “was Professor Wim Distelmans, a well-known euthanasia activist. He seems proud to have played a key role in ‘the first time in the world that a ‘double euthanasia’ has been performed on brothers.”

There is much more to discuss, but since it is much more important that you read Cook’s article, let me conclude with this. Euthanasia in Belgium is, by almost ANYONE’S standards, already wildly out of control, with worse to come. As bioethicist Wesley Smith wrote last December [http://nrlc.cc/Xd5cvq],

“Belgium has jumped head-first off a vertical moral cliff with its euthanasia law. As I have documented here and elsewhere, the Belgians have permitted joint euthanasia deaths of an elderly couple and now couple organ harvesting with the euthanasia killings of people with disabilities and even, mental illness.

“Now, the country looks poised to expand the category of killables to minors and Alzheimer’s patients.”

In a macabre irony, the government proposed expanding the “killables” a few days after the brothers were euthanasized but before anyone knew of it.

The usual pro-death suspects were quoted here and there, at least in the stories I read. But Cook was able to get a leading “right-to-die” proponent to spell out the logic of their position, and where they wanted to go all along.

Cook writes that he conducted an interview with Jacqueline Herremans, president of Belgium’s Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, by email. He told Cook “that euthanasia should be made available to many more people.” Cook then offers a lengthy quote from the interview:

“When we opened the debate almost 15 years ago, the first thought was for people suffering from incurable cancers. And it is still cancer which is the origin of almost 80% of the cases of euthanasia. But we must admit that suffering may exist in other circumstances. MS, ALS, Parkinson’s are obvious. But what about psychiatric disorders without any possibility of cure? What about ageing persons with several medical affections losing their autonomy and seeing no more sense to their life, knowing that tomorrow is going to be worse than today? What about Alzheimer’s patients?”

“What about….?” Better put, “Who is next?”