Keeping the Faith

Euthanasia Case Doubly Concerning

Two things happened last week concerning twins that made headlines. Our own, Tassie-born Princess Mary of Denmark was dubbed the international patron of the Australian and Danish twin registries. Her lovely face will promote twin research in both countries. The new role is particularly poignant for our princess as she is a mother of twins herself – two-year-olds Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, the youngest of four.

I wonder what Princess Mary thought when she read of the other ‘twin’ story that made headlines.

South of her Copenhagen home, a hop over Germany, a skip over Holland and a jump into Belgium, 45-year-old twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem opted to take their own lives. Nothing particularly alarming there – euthanasia is legal in many countries. But Marc and Eddy were not in any physical pain. They felt they had nothing to live for and chose euthanasia by lethal injection (legal in Belgium).

Therein lies the tragedy.

No denying that these guys had a tough life. They were both born deaf, suffered spinal and heart disease and were about to lose their vision due to glaucoma. “The great fear that they would no longer be able to see or hear each other and the family was, for my brothers, unbearable,” their older brother told reporters. The twins valued their independence. They lived and worked together their whole lives and the decline of their bodies meant they would need a level of care they didn’t wish to entertain.

I’m not going to judge their decision. I can’t begin to understand what their lives must have been like, their faculties slowly being switched off.

But it’s a tragedy that it came to this.

How heartening it has been to see communities united in support of those people who lost their homes to the recent bushfires. But let’s remember that there are people battling `bushfires’ of their own every day, decimating their independence, their hope, their joie de vivre. This wonderful community response should be ongoing so that people have no need to access euthanasia services, as in the Verbessem case. This, paired with a focus on improved palliative care.

Jesus stooped to clean the feet of his friends as an example of how we should treat others. He preached love, lived love, shared love. He died love too.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Perhaps, instead of making ways for people to take their own lives when it all gets too hard, we should be laying down our own lives (our agendas, ambitions, plans) in service of those who need us most.

As we head into another year with euthanasia likely to be on the agenda in Tasmanian Parliament, the Verbessem tragedy sends alarm bells. It’s clichéd, but it must be said: it’s a slippery slope.

Incidentally, Belgium’s ruling Socialist party tabled an amendment to its euthanasia bill last month that would give children and Alzheimer’s sufferers access to euthanasia.

Sigh. Let’s not go there Tassie.


As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday January 21, 2013.

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