January 15, 2013

Belgian doctors give suicide injections to 45-year-twins who were going blind.

Marc and Eddy Verbessem, who were deaf, decided they didn't want to live anymore, and the doctors fulfilled their death wish.
Euthanasia is legal under Belgian law if those making the decision can make their wishes clear and are suffering unbearable pain, according to a doctor's judgement....

Mr Dufour, the doctor who presided over the euthanasia, told RTL television news that the twins had taken the decision in 'full conscience.' He said they were 'very happy' and it had was a 'relief' to see the end of their suffering.

'They had a cup of coffee in the hall, it went well and a rich conversation,' Mr Dufour said. 'Then the separation from their parents and brother was very serene and beautiful. At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone.'
This is a shocking story. We're told the men were "terrified" of being institutionalized once they went blind. But they hadn't gone blind yet, and they hadn't attempted to learn how to live independently while blind and deaf. Why not at least wait until they actually became blind? Why advance-euthanize? And what kind of a society facilitates death for the disabled while scaring them with the loss of their freedom? When are the blind institutionalized?

Where was the "unbearable pain"? There was no physical pain, only mental anguish, accepted as pain. And the anguish seems to have been premised on a fear of institutionalization. Why were they threatened by that? If their fear was reasonable, something is wrong with the treatment of the disabled in Belgium. If their fear was unreasonable, their decision should not have been enough even in a system that authorizes physician assisted suicide.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pogo (who is a doctor) offers a passage from Robert Jay Lifton's book "The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide."

62 comments:

Pogo said...

And it's one short step for the state to make that decision for them.

Why not? They will have lost their maximum productivity.

They shoot horses, don't they?

supermagicman said...

Yup

Beta Rube said...

Thank you for posting this Professor. I read this story yesterday and it made me sick to my stomach. I have an older brother who has been deaf since birth and, although not blind, he is vision impaired.He lives independently with family help, and he is loved by many.

It sickens me that life can be viewed so casually. What does Pogo have to say about physicians enabling the machinery of death?

First, do no harm?

madAsHell said...

Let me guess.....the twins had no children.

Pogo said...

The modern Hippocratic oath has become, like the old US Constitution a "living" document, meaning it is really most sincerely dead.

But doctors who kill are evil.

Doctors who kill the weak and infirm are evil cowards, doubly cursed.



Moose said...

All you have to do is dumb down the conversation (what is defined as "unbearable pain") and enable them (would they have done this if they had to hang themselves?), and there you have it. The state becomes the co-dependent of a dysfunctional relationship, and enables them off themselves.

MadisonMan said...

At least (small comfort) it took them two years to find someone willing to kill them.

Phil 3:14 said...

The definition of "therapy" has changed.

Pogo said...

Sorry to go Godwin so quickly, but the explanation is germaine"

"The key to understanding how Nazi doctors came to do the work of Auschwitz is the psychological principle I call “doubling”: the division of the self into two functioning wholes, so that a part-self acts as an entire self. An Auschwitz doctor could through doubling not only kill and contribute to killing but organize silently, on behalf of that evil project, an entire self-structure (or self process) encompassing virtually all aspects of his behavior.

Doubling, then, was the psychological vehicle for the Nazi doctor’s Faustian bargain with the diabolical environment in exchange for his contribution to the killing; he was offered various psychological and material benefits on behalf of privileged adaptation. Beyond Auschwitz was the larger Faustian temptation offered to German doctors in general that of becoming the theorists and implementers of a cosmic scheme of racial cure by means of victimization and mass murder.

One is always ethically responsible for Faustian bargains — a responsibility in no way abrogated by the fact that much doubling takes place outside of awareness. In exploring doubling, I engage in psychological probing on behalf of illuminating evil. For the individual Nazi doctor in Auschwitz, doubling was likely to mean a choice for evil.
"

THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, 1986
Robert J. Lifton

Bob Ellison said...

I know of someone in BeNeLux who has been trying to get a doctor to help her die because she is depressed.

Religion would help these people. They make good chocolates there, too. Have a chocolate and maybe a glass of wine.

Fritz said...

That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.

Erika said...

I became pro-life--and, by the way, Catholic--when I really asked myself if it was ever OK to decide who is worthy of life, and is it ever OK for people to take it upon themselves to make that determination.

bpm4532 said...

This is the trait of totalitarian, and left-wing regimes. They rationalize the killing off of those things that are imperfect, inconvenient or expensive to society.

jd said...

HAHAHA now the state is the one that killed them. you all are complete idiots. That wasn't a fact in the story.

The guys wanted to die! The "left-wing totalitarian regime" had nothing to do with it, except not step in the way, which seems, idk, PRETTY LIBERTARIAN to me.

Shouldn't government get out of the way?

traditionalguy said...

They needed a dog. A good dog and a kind relative to live with would be all they needed.

It does elevate the value of modern opthamology with laser repair of retinas and Rx drops that were unknown 10 years ago.





jd said...

Also, frankly, I find it more shocking that someone like Ann Althouse, someone who is so insane she thinks she is never wrong, would advocate for the government to control whether I choose to accept a life of institutionalization as a blind mute.

You all don't care about letting people choose how to live their lives. You all want people to live how you want them to live, it seems

Maguro said...

Ah, but they have free healthcare in Europe. So civilized.

Freeman Hunt said...

So does the guy who killed them realize that he's a murderer? Is he conscious of that?

And what's he in it for, really? Sure, sure, it's all about selflessness and giving people their God-given... er, magically intrinsic?... right to determine the outcome of their own lives. That's the story. But might the reality be that it's exciting to do something so fundamentally transgressive, murder, and not only get away with it but be able to cloak it in noble words, to try to flip the world, good for evil, evil for good?

Shouting Thomas said...

Also, frankly, I find it more shocking that someone like Ann Althouse, someone who is so insane she thinks she is never wrong...

This is becoming a repetitive theme of aggravated commenters.

Confronted with a strong and confident mind, the weak and unconfident seem overwhelmed. I also experience that reaction from the weak all the time.

I can't respond for Althouse, but my strength and confidence were not developed and are not projected as an attack on the weak. I have my own uses for my strength and confidence that have nothing to do with how those attributes affect you.

Develop your own strength and confidence, instead of reacting to those attributes in others.

prairie wind said...

What an odd relationship the brothers must have had, that neither of them was able to encourage the other to live or that one of them was able to convince the other to die.

Seeing Red said...

I thought I just saw a headline about deafness, that they're getting closer to solving it?

Did they ever even investigate the surgeries & technology available to possibly hear?

Seeing Red said...

It's called Obamacare, jd, get a grip.

Belgians are used to being ruled. With Obamacare, you will get used to being ruled.

joe said...

THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, 1986
Robert J. Lifton

Good book, but Lifton doesn't condemn/is amoral/ if a mercy killing/abortion is asked for by the patient.

First time I read about "luminol", which was used to euthanize human beings. Today everyone knows luminol as a forensic tool to illuminate unseen blood.

Which brings up Steinbeck and his views on euthanasia via his work, "Of Mice And Men".
Moral lesson; If you love and care for someone, shoot um, before he suffers a lynching.
If you can't kill your own useless eating dog, hire a ranch hand to do it.

Xmas said...

Seeing Red,

Deafness and blindness are close to being solved.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/bionic-eye-operation-helps-blind-man-to-see-7710884.html

They've already got bionic arms working.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/video-paralysed-woman-moves-bionic-arm-with-mind-8422129.html

And I have a friend that can throw fireballs with his mind.

http://site3.ca/projects/pk4a/

jd said...

@shouting thomas. I'm sorry, who was the last decent person you met who said they were never wrong (with a straight face!)?

I feel so bad for her students and colleagues. To have to be around such a narcissist for the few hours she deigns to come earn her hefty paycheck...sounds horrible.

only such a narcissist would believe she is in as good of a position to pass judgment on the decision of these two twins, who reached the decision knowing the facts of their situation and did so not independently but together.

@ Seeing Red...have you ever even been to Belgium? This had NOTHING to do with the government, except for government not interfering. You all are suuuuuuuuch idiots.

Shouting Thomas said...

@shouting thomas. I'm sorry, who was the last decent person you met who said they were never wrong (with a straight face!)?

Admitting you're wrong is almost never a good strategic move, except in your most personal relationships.

You adversaries will just use it against you.

Maybe you need to learn something about strategy as it applies to daily life.

Fernandinande said...

"If their fear was reasonable, ..."

It's 100% reasonable not to want to be DEAF and BLIND. Jesus H. Christ.

Doctors who think they have some special right to control other people's lives and force patients to suffer are evil. "Pogo" has an amazing ego.

Peter said...

A basic problem here is that practically everyone's assessment of quality of life after disability is faulty.

Many think, "if I were blind (or a quadraplegic, or ...)- well, I wouldn't want to live like that."

Yet when one studies those who sustained injuries resulting in these disabilities, one finds that after the initial shock wears off (and that's not a trivial process) the now-disabled person is almost as happy as before.

Perhaps it's a paradox. But the take-away is that "I wouldn't want to live like that" pre-disability assessments are almost always wrong.

Seeing Red said...

Ohh, I didn't know Belgium was such a lawless place, there are no laws on the books?

Oh, wait!

"...Euthanasia is legal under Belgian law if those making the decision can make their wishes clear and are suffering unbearable pain, according to a doctor's judgement...."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2262630/Brother-deaf-Belgian-twins-killed-euthanasia-describes-final-words-reveals-live-learning-going-blind.html#ixzz2I3ayXrJO
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Since there was a law on the books, I'd say it did have something to do with the government.
Yes, I did happen to pass thru Belgium many years ago.

This gets worse & worse. They never learned sign language?????

...The 45-year-olds, named yesterday as Marc and Eddy Verbessem, had lived together their entire adult lives and could not communicate with the outside world....

Seeing Red said...

That's what I thought, they're close to being solved. Thank you.

Pogo said...

"It's 100% reasonable not to want to be DEAF and BLIND. Jesus H. Christ."
Sure it is. But millions of elderly go through this every day without killing themselves, not to mention the millions born that way.

So it is reasonable to want all your senses, but it's lack is not a reasonable cause to murder someone over, much less oneself.

"Doctors who think they have some special right to control other people's lives and force patients to suffer are evil."

What was stopping the twins from killing themselves? Why bring an MD into the murder pact?

Are they just pussies?

"Force patients to suffer"?
Suffering is the human condition. Doctors don't create it. If you want no suffering, you'd have to kill everyone.

tim maguire said...

jd, speaking only for myself...I believe assisted suicide should be legal. Not encouraged, perhaps, but legal. It's my life, if I've had enough of it, that's my affair.

But euthanasia crosses a line, it's a carve out for murder. And when you live in a system where the people killing you have a financial or personal incentive to kill you, it's guaranteed to be abused, it will become an instrument of murder.

Some people in this comment section blame the state because that doctor is an employee of the state agreeing to kill because of an incentive system created by the state. He may be a doctor, but he has no special moral faculties that make him a better judge of life and death than you or I.

Should just anybody be able to decide whether another should die? If the answer is no, not just anybody, then the only alternative is nobody.

Jack Wayne said...

I disagree with you Ann. Who decides - people or the goverment? Who owns your body if not you? They decided on suicide. It's irrelevant if they were frightened or what their motives were. They decided. Not your beeswax.

G Joubert said...

I'm finding the thread of a common theme between this post and the one yesterday about the mother in the UK giving birth to the profoundly disabled baby.

These posts deserve a common tag ("prolife"?), or at the very least ought to be juxtaposed and read together.

Tari said...

How in the heck did their parents and the community (school, etc) let these guys grow up without the ability to communicate with the outside world? After reading that fact in the article, I'm a litle less surprised they had such a warped sense of things.

tiger said...

A few years back there was a 'scandal' because nurses and doctors were killing old people - and some not-so-old people who hadn't asked for euthanasia.

The medical people did it based on their own opinions for whether the patient had a 'decent quality of life'.

I saw two articles on it when the story broke and nothing since.

ebartley said...

Why oh why do we put euthanasia into the hands of doctors? It's not as if there's anything difficult about killing a cooperating person. The act of killing doesn't become purified because a doctor performs it; the practice of medicine becomes polluted instead. It leads to tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of elderly put on a "pathway" dying of dehydration in NHS hospitals in Britain and elderly in Holland carrying cards saying they don't want to be euthanized.

Pogo said...

"Who decides - people or the goverment?"

If people decide that it is legal to kill themselves, it soon follows that they can legally ask for assistance in doing so.

And 'as surely as snow is followed by little boys on sleds', the state will always intervene.

First for protection, then for promotion.

Levi Starks said...

This reminds me a little of the oft repeated "they're our bodies, we can do whatever we want with them, you keep your hands off" mantra from women.

What they really mean is -
Provide us with every possible government, and employment based benefit so we can act as reckless and irresponsible as we want, and not suffer any consequences.

edutcher said...

Back when the British Army was the Thin Red Line, they had a saying, "There's a line in war a man dare not cross".

Playing God in any profession is dangerous. we weren't meant to have the power of life and death.

Ask Cain.

Smilin' Jack said...

If their fear was unreasonable, their decision should not have been enough even in a system that authorizes physician assisted suicide.

Absolutely. In a civilized society only women can be allowed to control their own bodies.

Smilin' Jack said...

Pogo said...
And it's one short step for the state to make that decision for them.


Ann's position is that the state should make that decision for them.

Levi Starks said...

How you react to this story probably hinges on your belief in God, and if you do believe in God from where you draw your picture of him.

Of course if you are an A-theist, Moral right and wrong are base only on social conventions as they exist at a given place and time. And currently in Belgium the convention is that this is fine.

If you are a Theist who believes in the Biblical account of God's relationship with man then you likely see the separation of the body and soul prior to the will of God as a poor/bad/sinful choice.

If you believe in a God of your own making, you are standing in quicksand, and just haven't figured it out yet..

Pogo said...

They can still kill themselves, can they not?

I mean, what would the state do to them if they did so?

With killing, the state will insert itself. It must, for it is impossible for the government to remain neutral in murder.

The state is least intrusive when it denies you the ability to murder; its influence ends there. But allowing suicide encourages the state to intervene endlessly and then coercively.

jimspice said...

I've never understood the conservative position on doctor assisted suicide. You'd think this would be the ultimate representation of freedom and determination of one's own fate. I suspect this inconsistent view arises from the introduction of religious beliefs. I get it; you think people who commit suicide go to hell. Fine. But should that not be up to the individual?

G Joubert said...

Just not seeing how the default position of favoring life, promoting life, promoting the survival of the species, and along the way advancing the frontiers of medicine, is inconsistent with conservativism.

ebartley said...

@jimspice Conservatives are not the same as libertarians. That said, my objection above was to having doctors take up the profession of death; I want them firmly attached to the profession of avoidance of death. Have a mechanic build you a guillotine. Or a carbon monoxide chamber. Or if you really insist on drugs, have someone who only deals in death write the prescription. It doesn't have to be a medical doctor: calculating a lethal dosage given a weight can be done with a reference guide.

There are plenty of ways to deal death without corrupting the medical professions.

Rockport Conservative said...

As an elderly identical twin I am puzzled by twins who have no individual life. While we are happy to be twins we are also happy to have separate lives, we are not con-joined, just identical. Someone went wrong many years ago to let it come down to having twins so totally involved with one another.

ed said...

@ Pogo

Shorter Godwin:

Goodness takes courage.

Petunia said...

Wouldn't it be ironic if the doctors had been wrong and they would not have gone blind?

There is something more going on here. They could only communicate with each other and close family members? Why? Were there no family members who could have helped to care for them had they in fact gone blind? Why didn't they just kill themselves instead of waiting two YEARS until they found someone to do it for them?

I'm astounded that they found a doctor who would kill them because of a condition that they MIGHT have suffered from in the future. A condition with which many people live productive lives.

In veterinary medicine there is something called convenience euthanasia. Not for medical reasons, but because the owner doesn't want the animal any more or there is no room at the shelter. Many vets refuse to do it.

Convenience euthanasia. That's what this sounds like to me.

Crimso said...

"The state is least intrusive when it denies you the ability to murder; its influence ends there. But allowing suicide encourages the state to intervene endlessly and then coercively."

To follow up on your 3rd Reich comments, I read Richard Evans' history of Germany during Nazism (trilogy) and one thing that really stood out was his tracing of the Final Solution. It very clearly began as euthanizing people with mental and physical handicaps. The descriptions of some of the assessments of "patients" by physicians (some of whom were gently prodded in the "right" direction) is especially chilling.

From vans with the exhaust routed into the rear (drive around town for a while, unload bodies, repeat as needed) came the first ideas for large-scale extermination of Jews and other undesirables. It is really quite extraordinary to see how seamlessly, softly, and casually euthanasia by the state morphed into genocide. People wonder how the Holocaust could have happened. That's how it happened.

FWIW, I tend towards Heinlein as per Lazarus Long on the question, but approach it very warily.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They decided on suicide. It's irrelevant if they were frightened or what their motives were.

No. They decided to have someone ELSE murder them. They brought society and the rest of the population into their actions.

If they wanted to commit suicide (words have meanings!), they should have done so. They didn't.

dreams said...

People have the ability to adapt, those twins could have found some kind of coping conceit, a kind of harmless but healthful self delusion to endure their loss and be able to still enjoy life. Not to forget that they had each other which would surely be comforting and a source for their enjoyment of life.

traditionalguy said...

We are down to Bahrain on the Persian suburbs of Nations.

How long before Belgium comes up?

I once met a lady from Belgium and she was an Aristocrat who knew the Queen. They have a monarchy.

They are also descendants of the Frankish part of the great Roman Empire which was an 80% slave state. They still act like they are entitled to rule the world...and the EU is their's to govern with those skills.

bagoh20 said...

So it should be legal to get a doctor to kill your unborn child for any reason without any concern for their wishes, but not to kill yourself to avoid living a life you don't want.

I don't understand the principle being defended by that stance. It can't be life, and it can't be freedom.

Smilin' Jack said...

They brought society and the rest of the population into their actions.

Really? They brought you into their actions? Or did you perhaps decide to insert yourself where you're not wanted?

Methadras said...

Why would anyone be shocked at seeing one of the endgames of leftism?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They brought society and the rest of the population into their actions.

Really? They brought you into their actions? Or did you perhaps decide to insert yourself where you're not wanted?

Unless they paid CASH for someone to murder them, and I understand that Belgium has a governmental funded health care system, they DID drag everyone into it.

When we have our very own socialized medical complex and we all pay taxes for your medical treatment....it IS my business. If you want to "off" yourself, have at it. I don't give a rip. If you want to murder your children, by all means, don't let me stop you. If you want ME to pay for it....THEN it is my business.

This is the downside of government controlled health care (and government controlled everything else). The decisions you make are no longer your own, because other people are paying for you. Don't eat too much sweets, watch the fat, you'd better exercise and get that flab off....OR ELSE.

Jim S. said...

We lived in Belgium for eight years. The number one cause of suicide in Belgium is jumping in front of a train. We knew people who did this. Other Europeans view Belgians like New Yorkers view New Jerseyans.

Theranter said...

"Are they just pussies?"
You nailed it Pogo.

Couldn't even kill themselves. Total wusses.

But that's the result when you are raised in a soft society that tries to alleviate every form of mental and physical pain, and yet at the same time tells men they must be touchy-feely.

sabeth.chu said...

What is the law in Belgium?

Can. a doctor refuse to assist abortion, or IVF, or cloning, or suicide?

In this case - free will, my foot - it seems it is legal to eliminate the ill, the weak, and the desperate - perhaps also the old, I presume. But is it obligatory? In this case, I guess, they have arrived at Nazism by a slightly different route.

I find this story horrifying. Like a nichtmare relic from 20th century.

Alina said...

There are so many beautiful examples of people who never got the opportunity to really know something about the world they live in due to both blindeness and deafness who integrated beautifully in the society and turned to be wonderful examples for all of us. The human being has uncountable inner resources to make it through in any conditions. The information is power to those who lose hope. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deafblindness