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Published: January 16, 2013 1:31 am to International News

Belgian twins euthanized over fear of going blind

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Sad news out of Belgium: two twins, deaf from birth, were euthanized after discovering they were going blind. The brothers worked and lived together, and they were productive members of society. They weren’t suffering, in extreme pain, or terminally ill. Belgium’s euthanasia law requires that a person be suffering from extreme pain or a terminal illness. The twins, despite not meeting the requirements to be eligible for euthanasia, were still put to death by lethal injection.

The pair were euthanised by lethal injection by doctors at Brussels University Hospital on December 14. “They were very happy. It was a relief to see the end of their suffering,” supervising doctor David Dufour told RTL television news.

“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.”

The men, from the village of Putte outside Brussels, had first sought help from – and been refused by – their local hospital.

The doctor from the original hospital rightly felt that being blind or deaf was not what the legislation meant by “unbearable suffering.” Their parents also did not agree with their decision to be euthanized. Just days later, the Belgian government announced plans to potentially allow children with disabilities or adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia to be euthanized as well, a possibility that’s extremely worrying.

Consider the case of these twins. The National Federation of the Blind responded, saying:

This disturbing news from Belgium is a stark example of the common, and in this case tragic, misunderstanding of disability and its consequences. Adjustment to any disability is difficult, and deaf-blind people face their own particular challenges, but from at least the time of Helen Keller it has been known that these challenges can be met, and the technology and services available today have vastly improved prospects for the deaf-blind and others with disabilities. That these men wanted to die is tragic; that the state sanctioned and aided their suicide is frightening.

If a patient goes to a doctor with suicidal thoughts, the right way to respond is not to go get the lethal injection medication ready. It’s to arrange counseling and therapy, to try to help him past his suicidal thoughts…not feed into them. But that’s what these Belgian doctors did, with the apparent approval of the Belgian government. It didn’t matter that these men were not terminally ill or in extreme pain. They were allowed to be killed.

And even scarier is the thought that Belgium might be expanding their euthanasia program, especially considering that parents could be permitted to legally kill their children, simply because those children have a disability, or that someone with Alzheimer’s could be murdered without being capable of consenting to his own death first.

These twins were vulnerable and needed information and help, not death. But their vulnerability was exploited, and now, tragically, they’re dead. The slippery slope of euthanasia in Belgium should serve as a warning for other countries considering starting down this grisly road.

About Cassy Fiano

Cassy Fiano is a blogger who lives with her husband, a United States Marine. They have a toddler named Ben, a second son named Wyatt, who has Down syndrome, and a little girl named Ivy.
View all posts by Cassy Fiano

  • ldwendy

    Cassy,

    You conveniently left out a few facts. The deaf twins used sign language to communicate all their lives. In such a case, vision is *CENTRAL* to how they live. Culturally deaf people who have used signed language all their lives aren’t always comfortable with the idea of getting cochlear implants, so I am not sure why you think “information and help” would have dissuaded these twins from taking their own lives. If people aren’t open to new paradigms, you cannot dissuade them from what they think their only options are.

    We also don’t know if they have a belief in God. If they didn’t, the twins did not have a moral imperative to continue living. I am alive because I chose to believe that one day God will explain His reasons for my existence on this earth with the conditions I have.

    I know what it’s like to have a hearing disability. I know what it’s like to live in silence, and the maddening reality of being to able to hear well enough for some things with my cochlear implants but not everything I want to hear. I know the frustration of trying to persuade my parish to do more than lip service to the ADA and install assistive listening devices in the Sunday school room and the music rehearsal room as well as the sanctuary.

    Who are you to assume someone with one disabliity will be able to adjust to another sudden disability? Not everyone can be Helen Keller. Every person with a disability have their own unique outcomes. The prolife movement likes to focus on the “inspirational” guys who “overcame” their disabilities, but I think for everyone who is “inspirational”, there are 10 disabled persons who live lives of quiet desperation.

    Wendy

    • Christina

      Wendy,
      Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing your story. It’s always good to hear a personal opinion from someone who is in a somewhat similar situation. I don’t personally know the struggles that people with disabilities deal with on a regular basis. I will not pretend to know the pain or frustration. I have my own pain and frustrations, but they are unique to myself. Regardless, I am glad for the gift of life. The loss of these men is a tragedy. They were young and only God knows what could have happened with their lives. Perhaps by some miracle, the blindness could have been lessened or treated. I guess we will never know now. Euthanasia is not the answer to these types of situations. When you take your life, you remove a gift from this earth. I can only imagine the emotions their parents, friends and loved ones are facing now. It’s not our job to decide when life ends or begins, only God’s. I don’t know you but I am grateful for your life. I pray continued grace for you to walk out this journey.

      • Emily

        Some people don’t view life as a gift. Perhaps, they viewed their sight as the greatest gift. When you lack one sense, your other sense are heightened. They relied on their sight much MUCH more than we do. Personally, I think it should be your own choice whether or not you want to live. None of us choose to come into this world. That being said, I value my life greatly. That’s my choice and my views. It doesn’t sound like they were mentally ill or suffering from depression. I think without being in their position, it’s not my place to judge them. Their lives, their choices, and I respect that whether or not it’s what I would have done.

      • DreadFix

        Emily already answered to most of what i would tell you.

        But when you say :” It’s not our job to decide when life ends or begins, only God’s “. That’s your beliefs, I respect that. But not everyone believe in him. Belgium is a neutral country for this. The religion and the state are separated. I’m Belgian in exchange in the USA. And in Belgium, i know as much people that believe in God than atheists here in the US. If you go to church in Belgium, I think that 80% of the people there are over 70 years old.
        All of this to say that, in Belgium, most people don’t believe in God.
        So your argument is not valid for this.Sorry …

    • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

      I’m sorry, one second – did you just say they couldn’t accomplish something because “it’s too hard?” Or “too uncomfortable?” So much for “don’t discriminate people with disabilities.” I’m sorry if you think that everyone can’t be a Helen Keller and worked hard, but guess what? She was the first deaf and blind person we know of to have been helped properly. It was much harder figuring out how to help her than it would have been to help these brothers, seeing as we’ve discovered much about ways to do so, which was the entire point of Cassie’s info on technology. Common sense. Yes, disabilities are pretty dang hard to adjust to, yes, there is fight needed in order to get through it, every day. But how dare we say they are “better off dead” because they didn’t want to deal with it. No, they may not have had coverage, or the easiest time of figuring things out, (as you have said you’ve had issues with hearing and would understand some of these) but there are amputies running races, people born without arms or legs who are making their life have a good impact on the world! Please excuse the author, if you will, for pointing out that better help is available and that these twins did not have to commit suicide. That they could have done more with their beautiful blind and deaf lives, and they COULD have risen above the obstacles, no matter how hard it would have been. We are not a race that stoops to be beaten with a stick when we’re faced with hardship. We are not worthless beings that lie down in the dirt when trouble comes. When we allow things like this to happen, we are desecrating our precious standing!!! Humans ARE capable. Not to mention all the inspiring things we could do even with the disabilities that befall us! These people who “live lives of quiet desperation” ARE in need, ARE in pain, DO need help. That’s what God is for, you’re right! And not everyone knows about him and his love, but we CANNOT, absolutely CANNOT just stand by and watch as these beautiful people lay down and die becauses their life is getting more difficult. If you can justify their reasoning for soing something like this, you aren’t living as God has told us to. Not that anyone can be perfectly following it all the time, but at least show some effort, USE your weakness to show everyone you know how far your God has taken you! Don’t let others sulk just because they’re having issues on the earth! PLEASE!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

        Exibit A: James 1:2-3
        “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith developed perseverance.”

      • ldwendy

        Sorry, Kylie.

        I’m not in any mood to use my hearing loss to show everyone how far God has taken me. Many times I feel He hasn’t taken me far enough, when I see how capable others with normal hearing are.

        I don’t really want to be seen as “inspirational”. I only ask for the opportunity and the right to achieve my dreams. Or, should I say, the dreams that i think God put in my heart. It’s just maybe these dreams won’t be achieved in this life.

        Wendy

    • Valas

      Wendy, thanks for your voice of reason here.

  • Rdg Teacher

    This is such a tragedy. So very sad, there is no excuse for this kind of dehumanizing treatment of others, no matter their real or perceived “problems.” What, oh what, are we coming to?

  • sad

    Reminds me of Hitler

    • Samantha

      While you are entitled to your opinion, I hope you realize the difference between murdering someone against their will versus taking your own life. This was a choice they made. The victims of the Holocaust were kept in concentration camps for years, were starved and slaughtered. They wanted to live and had their lives TAKEN from them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

        Life is a gift. These two decided to squander it, and yet they’re being praised, and others are encouraged to follow in the “beauty” of death. Sounds a lot like Hitler’s goal to me. Granted, of course, they’re not being stripped naked and starved and beaten to death – but that’s all the more reason to fight for your life.

        • Ben

          You view life as a gift. What if they viewed their lives as burdens? What if they felt caged and that they lacked freedom? What if they felt hindered? Obviously, if they made a decision of this magnitude they felt it was better to not live than to live their lives without sight or hearing. These aren’t people who just randomly decided to kills themselves just for the hell of it. I’m sure it was a big decision that they carefully thought over. As this was the decision they made together, it was clearly the best choice for them not for you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

            Excuse me for caring more about them than their own government did.

          • Ben

            Their government did care about them. It gave them the choice to make the decision that was best for them.

          • adopted2x

            then alas, i am sad for them..for they must not have known Jesus~

          • tarklebark

            In the article, that when people show suicidal tendencies, they are to be treated with counsel. People change their minds, and suicide is irrevocable. With this encouragement by the government and medical field, people will become more likely to take this way out, and less likely to change their mind. There is just something about the snare of assisted suicide that will make it harder to back out. The encouragement of the people involved, the professionalism, the business of it will make it very hard for weaker people to back out once they have made enough of a commitment to walk through the doors. When you are alone at night with a razor in your hand, just the slightest hint of day light can break the suicide spell.

          • Mrs. Black

            You know, your statements all rely on an understanding that truth is something real and accessible- you expect that what you are saying is true. Therefore, you also understand that some things are universally true- at least your statements have some kind of truth value. How is it, then, that we cannot make pronouncements on whether this was right or wrong? Truth doesn’t rely on people’s feelings. It is something apart from ourselves. We ought to be able to discuss these things without relativists simply asserting that some things are true for some people but not true for others. That’s a major error in logic, and you clearly believe that you have the ability to communicate truth, which relies on the idea that it is universal- otherwise, how would we be able to understand each other?

      • http://www.facebook.com/colleen.tronson Colleen Tronson

        would you say that babies in the womb have a right to not have their lives taken form them by someone else’s choice? Just asking?

        • Samantha

          Yes, I believe babies in the womb have a right to the chance at life. Their lives. Their bodies. I’m against abortion.

      • Leslie65

        They did NOT take their own lives, not that that would have been okay. The requested that someone else do it, and that’s what happened, even though the law they have now did not cover this.

      • Mrs. Black

        Life is only valuable if you want to keep it? That’s a strange understanding of value. If something has value, it has value intrinsically. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t . And can you imagine the problems that sneak into this system of thinking with the allowance of people not only to commit suicide but also to allow others to help? I’m sorry Mr. Senior Citizen, it is clear that you have no capability to decide you want your life, so we’ll just take it. Or, I’m sorry Mrs. Clearly Conscience But Unable to Speak, we don’t think you want to live, so we’re going to kill you, even though we have no idea. We just know we wouldn’t want to live that way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kieran-Donegan/1460946400 Kieran Donegan

      Couldn’t agree with you more. What an anti-life country Belgium is.

  • harrison

    Funny how this is called “Live Action News.” Maybe I am missing something, but as a journalist myself your opinion is not news. Please stick to facts on a “news” site.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

      Last time I checked journalism was chocked full of opinion. Maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe you’re just being a jerk. I guess we’ll never know who’s more wrong.

    • Calvin Freiburger

      So your journalistic skills and experience somehow haven’t equipped you to grasp the fact a website having the word “news” in its name doesn’t preclude it from running opinion and commentary pieces?

  • DreadFix

    First, before to critic our Belgian System, learn all the conditions needed for it.

    Sorry, I only found an example here in french, you can try to translate it on google if you want. http://www.belgium.be/fr/sante/soins_de_sante/fin_de_vie/euthanasie/

    You are TOTALLY wrong about all the requirements needed for it.

    And seriously, what do you want to do once you’re deaf & blind ? Which possibilities of future do you have ?

    It’s not because you’re a blogger that it make you a specialist on the subject. So try to find sources of trust.

    Thank you to be more picky about the veracity of your sources for your next articles …

    • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

      Writing in brail, speaking, if they learned earlier in life, loving people, spreading smiles, fighting for their lives and showing others that it’s worth fighting for, doing good for OTHERS. Showing the people that help them that they can fight through whatever comes at them. The Belgians considered them a hinderance on society – they could have prooved them wrong and stood up for something. THAT is what they could do. I’m sure there are other things as well, how about you do some research while you’re “preachin?”

      • Bella Noche

        I have a question Kylie. How would you learn what a braille word meant if you cannot hear the teacher OR see them. If the ONLY way that you know to communicate is sign language and you lose your sight before you have time to learn another way. Would you want to be trapped in your own mind??? Helen Keller even hated it. She was wild, and her emotions too strong because she could not understand the feelings of others. She was able to learn to sign and learn to communicate with others when they signed into her hands, but she was also young and yearning for a means of communication. But what would most people do with an animal that was blind and deaf. What do people always say is the most humane thing to do for an animal that is suffering??? Why should their lives mean less than ours???

        • Basset_Hound

          Consider this. The Nazis began by making arguments that life with a disability was simply unbearable. They circulated a film about a man on trial for euthanizing his ailing wife, and made arguments that his was not an act of cold blooded murder, but an act of compassion. That is how they desensitized a nation into the idea that there was such a thing as “existence without life”, and that they, as a nation had the obligation to end the misery of all the “useless eaters”. The first mass killing center was at Hadamar. It was designed for killing the disabled, primarily children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684356926 Annie Jeffries

    Omigoodness and golly gee whiz. The report just makes it sound so lovely and beautiful and peaceful. What a crock. But just think! The government won’t have to expend any money on these men. I wonder just how long the idea had been floated to them as an alternative to living. Probably for a very very long time and very subtly until they probably thought it was their very own idea. I’m so angry about this. Can you tell??? Oh, and something else. Just how rich of a conversation can you really have over a cup of coffee in a hospital hallway. Many bad words. Many bad words. Many bad words.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

      I cannot agree more. “Beautiful?” “Rich?” What the heck is this guy on?!

  • tbj

    the scariest part about this story isn’t that these twins didn’t want to live anymore (that’s just very sad); it’s that the hospital helped them commit suicide.

  • KJC

    The last paragraph of this article suggests that therapy is the appropriate response to suicidal thoughts, and I agree. However, I was wondering if these men underwent any? It’s not clear from what I have read. Regardless of where you stand on euthanasia, most will still agree that treating depression first, if a person is depressed, makes sense. And I think that’s the scary idea here – that someone’s first instinct to want to die might be followed, rather than questioned, even if they would change their mind with mental health treatment. The article doesn’t really say what was going on with the mental health of these gentlemen.

    • Emily

      As this is a serious decision I hope they received therapy to accurately decide whether they are in the right mind to make this decision. That being said, not all people who want to end their lives are mentally ill or depressed. These brothers clearly lived thus far before going blind (they chose to live up until this point). I don’t think they wanted to die. I think they decided their quality of life being BOTH blind and deaf would have been awful and clearly not worth living (in their minds). It all comes down to quality of life. I think a person is entitled to live the life the way they want. If they can’t live the way they want or in a way that can make them happy then maybe life isn’t worth living. This is different than people who are sick or depressed and need medication to treat the unbalance of chemicals in their brains.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kykylie Kylie Greenlee

        That’s when they should be encouraged to fight for what’s left that is good and to help others and not simply throw their lives away like they don’t matter any more.

        • Noell

          Your talk about “being encouraged” to fight for their lives and/or seek treatment/therapy to find a way to avoid suicide and to “speak to encourage others” sound more like you are saying “find a way to make your life work, no matter how you feel about it, because I know the value of life, so therefore you must have the same value, and if you don’t, we will ‘therapy you’ until you agree”. You are missing the much bigger picture. In Belgium (and other European nations) Euthenasia is considered humane, and it was THEIR choice to end their lives, and they have that right. In fact, YOU do not have the right to force these twins, or any other suffering person, to live just because you so value your own life and lilfe in general. The bigger picture is about a persons right to assess their own quality of life, and make their own decision about whether it is worth living. Who are you to command others to see things your way?
          I live many years in Belgium, and the laws surrounding euthenasia in Belgium are much more involved and complex than the author of this article make it appear.

          • Basset_Hound

            What about an angst ridden teen who can’t see life as worth living after being the target for school bullies, failing a class and/or a messy, emotional break up? Shouldn’t we allow that person to “make the decision right for him (or her)”? I mean, who are we to “command others to see things our way”? Hmmmm….

  • cuban chicka

    What I find more sicking is not of the twins for they new what they were doing there family even new of this. What got me was the fact that they past a law that can kill children with disability and adults if they feel like they r suffering. But what if there not and the family just give up. I don’t think it fair for these childre or adults with disability to have that right made for them. For we may never now if one of them is the one to make this a better world.
    As for religion. God is God with many names some believe. Other don’t.( as for me I believe in God and along with everything else but I do not have a religion. Well I am out God bless and Angles watch over you all and everyone ya love.

  • Socrates

    Today the government will say its your right to be euthanized, tomorrow they will say its your duty to be euthanized.
    Euthanasia – Say no today, live a full life tomorrow. Say yes today, expect to have a government assigned expiration date tomorrow.

    Where there is no fear of God, there is no fear of consequences. Fortunately consequences cannot be escaped and fortunately God will not be mocked.

  • Basset_Hound

    Euthanasia with an aging population will make abortion seem like child’s play. I fear that the elderly (particularly women) will feel tremendous societal pressure to end their own lives. Consider the fact that most of Kervorkian’s “clients” were women, and that only a handful actually were terminally ill.

    Research into rehabilitation, prosthetics, occupational therapy, physical therapy as well as palliative care and pain management will grind to a screeching halt once society deems it is more “cost effective” to end life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bjla521 Bonnie Huyck LaFrance

    So sad and inhumane. Utterly ridiculous. Whatever happened to Braille and sign language to communicate??? We ARE going down the slippery slope. All life is precious. Granted the situation would be challenging to care for these twins but nothing condones doing away with life. Apparently these twins did not know the one true God that created them and they did not know His unconditional love for them and did not know His promise of provision for them for life. What gave them the idea that life was better without them?What they needed was to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and have that daily relationship with Him in prayer and reading His Word. It changes the whole outlook on life. Breaks my heart. Was there no one around that told them this is wrong. Murder or taking your own life is ALWAYS wrong. Let’s get the truth out there. This mentality in life that anyone is more important than anyone else has to stop. It doesn’t matter whether we have some sort of handicap or not, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are black, white,red, etc. EVERYONE is precious in God’s eyes. Salvation is the key to everlasting life. Search for the truth in God’s Word and He will direct your steps.

  • Rational Human

    You want to live like that? I would have shot myself if euthanasia wasn’t available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.schadenberg Alex Schadenberg

    They needed caring support not death.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Byrne/628937609 Charles Byrne

    We will see a lot more of this in the future. A society that rejects Christ and/or His Cross will eventually destroy itself. We all must suffer in this life, but by uniting our crosses with the Sufferings of Christ on Calvary we can and will find true hope and lasting joy.

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  • Joe

    National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and American Association of Deaf-Blind (AADB) opposed the this euthanasia.

    http://nad.org/http%3A/%252Fnad.org/news/2013/01/beglian-twins-deaf-blind

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