January 14, 2013 ( – Twin brothers, 45, who were born deaf, were euthanized in Belgium last month after they learned that they would soon go blind.


The two men, identified as Marc and Eddy Verbessem, were otherwise not seriously ill, but reportedly told doctors that the thought of not being able to see each other again was unbearable.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, but only technically in cases of unbearable suffering. The pair was reportedly originally denied the euthanasia by a local doctor who said, “I do not think this was what the legislation meant by 'unbearable suffering'.”

However, David Dufour, a doctor at Brussels University Hospital, agreed to kill the men by lethal injection. He told RTL television that they “were very happy.”

“It was a relief to see the end of their suffering,” he said. “They had a cup of coffee in the hall, it went well and a rich conversation. 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.”

Marc and Eddy’s older brother, Dirk, explained that the pair, who both worked as cobblers, lived together, and that blindness “would have made them completely dependent.”

“They did not want to be in an institution,” he said.

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Anti-euthanasia advocates have long argued that legalizing euthanasia, even with seemingly strict safeguards, leads inevitably to abuses as well as a gradual broadening of the circumstances in which euthanasia is deemed acceptable.

The euthanasia of the Verbessems came only days after the Socialist party introduced legislation to allow euthanasia for children and Alzheimer’s patients. Currently only those who are 18 years of age or older can choose to be killed by doctors.

Socialist Senator Philippe Mahoux, who helped write the legislation, said that he believes there are adolescents who have “the capacity to decide” whether to continue to live or not.

“It is clear, that what is occurring in Belgium is the logical extension to legalizing euthanasia,” said Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in response to the Verbessems’ euthanasia.

“If it is acceptable to kill one group of people in society by euthanasia then it will soon become acceptable to kill other groups of people in society by euthanasia.”

“These men were not suffering,” he added. “They were not sick but they were deemed to be ‘better off dead.’”

Conservative bioethics writer Wesley Smith agreed. “In a morally sane society, the death doctors would lose their licenses and be tried for homicide,” he said. “But Belgium no longer fits that description.

Smith said that after devoting 20 years to the issue, he is “not surprised” by the Verbessems’ death.

“Once killing is seen as an answer to human suffering, the meaning of the term becomes very elastic and the killable caste, like the universe, never stops expanding.”

In 2011 there were 1133 reported cases of euthanasia in Belgium, a number that has been steadily climbing since the practice was legalized in 2002. However, studies have indicated that nearly half of euthanasia cases are not reported. 

A report issued late last year by the Belgium-based European Institute of Bioethics found that euthanasia abuses are rampant in the country, and that the practice is “trivialized.”

“Initially legalized under very strict conditions, euthanasia has gradually become a very normal and even ordinary act to which patients are deemed ‘to have a right’,” read the report.

Other studies have also found a disturbingly high incidence of euthanasia in the absence of an explicit request – in other words, murder. One such study found that doctors justified the euthanasia often because the patients were comatose or had dementia.