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Relationships are complex, found everywhere, among the living and allegedly the dead. The gift of existence itself is a relationship, between the creator “God” and the creation “the universe and all living things.” True, death knocks on all doors. But when and how is beyond human control; thus, can individuals decide on when and how to die? Currently, assisted suicide is a taboo topic people tend to avoid in conversations, generally due to cultural or religious views. However, the story of deaf Belgian twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem changed the hearts of many and triggered human rights activists to defend an individual’s right to die.
The Verbessem twins opted to end their lives via legal euthanasia after being informed that they were going blind. The pair were inseparable; they had lived all their lives together as cobblers in the village of Putte near the city of Mechelen. Marc and Eddy told everybody that the thought of not being able to see each other was unbearable. To them, losing their only means of communication was not an option. The twins used a unique sign language understood only by them and immediate family members.
According to The Telegraph, it wasn’t easy to find an institution that would grant them their wish. After doctors at a nearby hospital declined their request for assisted suicide, arguing that the twins weren’t suffering from unbearable pain and therefore did not meet the criteria for legal euthanasia under Belgian law. However, this law had many interpretations and eventually, after two years of searching for an institution that would help them, doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette were convinced by the twins argument and laid them to rest via lethal injection on 14 December last year.
This heartfelt story opened doors to many debates and arguments justifying an individual’s “right to die.” Until today, only a few nations permit assisted suicide: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington. Recently, Marie Fleming, an Irish woman, was denied her “right to die” at Dublin’s high court even after being identified as a terminally ill patient with multiple sclerosis. According to Reuters, Judge Nicholas Kearns said “It would be impossible to ensure the aged, disabled, poor, unwanted, rejected etc would not avail of this option to avoid a sense being a burden on their families and society.”
A similar story is that of Tony Nicklinson, 58, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a stroke in 2005. He also bid to end his life by the assistance of a doctor, but was denied by the court. A week after losing his bid, the father of two died of pneumonie after refusing to eat at his home in Melksham, Wiltshire.
Today, human rights activists are defending an individual’s “right to die,” reported The International. Many argue that the Universal Declaration on Human rights, which states “the right to life, liberty, and security of person,” can have many interpretations, including the right to stop having life. Sadly enough, a person’s decision to end his/her life is always based on the relationships he/she cherishes; for instance, a lot opt for legal euthanasia simply to stop being a burden to their loved ones.
Marc and Eddy feared life more than death. They feared losing each other more than walking into the unknown. Relationships are the foundation of life, and in the case of the Verbessem twins, death too. Marc and Eddy were the first brothers worldwide to undergo double euthanasia. On the day of the procedure, they were peacefully dressed in new shoes and suits with their family around them.
Up till the last minute, their brother Dirk Verbessem tried to convince them out of it. He said, “Together with my parents, I said goodbye. Marc and Eddy waved again at us. ‘Up in the sky,’ they said. ‘Up in the sky,’ we replied. And then it was over.” The Verbessem twins were cremated and buried together in identical urns.