Elderly couples committing 'joint suicides' in nations where legal: 9 in Netherlands in 2018

Doctor Stephane Mercier visits a patient at the palliative care unit of the AP-HP Paul-Brousse hospital in Villejuif near Paris.
Doctor Stephane Mercier visits a patient at the palliative care unit of the AP-HP Paul-Brousse hospital in Villejuif near Paris. | (Photo: Reuters)

The phenomenon of elderly couples committing suicide together in nations where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is legally permitted appears to be on the rise.

In 2018, nine elderly couples in the Netherlands died in this fashion.

"The Dutch believe that transparency is more important than right and wrong. So, they allow a continually expanding euthanasia license — but are careful to make sure they report later on what death doctors are doing. Hence, the government publishes a yearly, coldly statistical report about how many of their citizens were killed by doctors and why," Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute noted on the blog of National Review Wednesday.

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The Netherlands is known for its ever-loosening laws on euthanasia and doctor-facilitated death, though some in recent years have expressed that matters have gotten out of control.

The reasons for couples taking their lives together under the Dutch euthanasia and assisted suicide regime are not listed but at least one was a man with terminal cancer whose wife had multiple sclerosis. She reportedly requested to die with him since she would not be able to live independently and did not want to be cared for by strangers.

In total there were 6,126 deaths that occurred by euthanasia or assisted suicide, a seven percent decrease from 2017.

"But when you consider other forms of patient eradication, such as terminal sedation (putting in a coma until the patient dehydrates to death), about 25 percent of deaths in the Netherlands are 'induced,'” Smith noted.

Out of all those deaths, 67 were facilitated by psychiatrists and other doctors for mental illness. Three children between the ages of 12 and 17 were put to death, the numbers indicate.

"Once euthanasia consciousness grabs a culture by the throat, it never stops squeezing," he quipped.

In August, Belgium was scrutinized as reports emerged detailing the number of people legally put to death in that nation through euthanasia, including children as young as 9 and 11.

The 2018 statistics come amid increasingly positive framing of the issue in mainstream outlets including an in-depth account of a Canadian elderly who opted to die together.

As The Christian Post reported in April of 2018, the Canadian Globe and Mail captured the death of George and Shirley Brickenden — who, between the two of them were suffering from a combination of rheumatoid arthritis and fainting linked to heart problems — as the final moment in a long love affair.

The story described their initial engagement, decades of marriage, and deep love for each other, and noted how neither one was apprehensive about dying. The Brickendens were not the first couple to receive physician-assisted suicide simultaneously but were reportedly the first to speak about it publicly.

The couple ended their lives with the support of Andrew Asbil, the Anglican dean of Toronto and rector of St. James Cathedral.

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