Former Dutch PM dies holding wife's hand in 'duo euthanasia'

Former Dutch PM dies holding wife's hand in 'duo euthanasia'

Euthanasia like van Agt's 'must not be a money saving scheme for the NHS', Jacob Rees-Mogg said

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 12/02/2024

- 14:50

Dries van Agt died hand-in-hand with his ‘anchor’ wife Eugenie

Former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife Eugenie van Agt-Krekelberg, both aged 93, have died by ‘duo euthanasia’ in what marks the highest-profile example yet of the process.

Van Agt, PM from 1977 to 1982, died “hand-in hand with his beloved wife” in his hometown of Nijmegen on February 5 – just three days after his 93rd birthday.

During his tenure at the head of the Dutch government, van Agt expressed support for Israel, but changed his views after leaving office.

As a staunch pro-Palestine voice, van Agt established the Rights Forum, a human rights advocacy group set up to “promote a just and durable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict”.

Dries and Eugenie van Agt

Both Dries and Eugenie van Agt's health had been in decline for a while, with the couple opting to choose euthanasia in the end

Facebook/Mark Rutte

The Rights Forum, known as ‘Van Agt’s Club’, announced the death of its founder last Friday, describing the former PM as “a friend and inspiration” and vowing to continue his mission.

In 2019, van Agt suffered a brain haemorrhage while giving a speech, and despite “recovering well”, his “functioning proved to be permanently impaired”.

Van Agt then gradually withdrew from public view, “fully aware that he had entered the final phase of his life”.

The Rights Forum said: “The health of his beloved Eugenie, the support and anchor with whom he had been with for more than 70 years, and whom he tenderly and characteristically continued to refer to as ‘my girl’, was also steadily deteriorating.


Dries van Agt and Mark Rutte

Incumbent Dutch PM Mark Rutte said van Agt was his “great-great-grandfather in office”

Wikimedia Commons

“On February 5, they died simultaneously, hand in hand.”

The Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess (and former Queen) Beatrix said: “We remember Dries van Agt with great respect, who served our country for many years as Prime Minister and Minister of Justice.

“He took administrative responsibility in a turbulent time and managed to inspire many with his striking personality and colourful style.

“His commitment to our country and to maintaining connections in our society deserves great appreciation.”

Dries van Agt and Margaret Thatcher

Van Agt was Dutch PM when Margaret Thatcher took office

Wikimedia Commons

Current Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said van Agt was his “great-great-grandfather in office” and praised his “clear convictions” and contribution to Dutch politics “in a time of polarisation”.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands since 2002 – since then, cases have more than quadrupled, with 8,720 people having been euthanised in 2022.

Technically, any action intended to terminate life is “in principle a criminal offence”, the Dutch Government says, but there are strict conditions where it is legal – including “unbearable suffering” and the express consent of both patient and doctor.

‘Duo euthanasia’ is a rare phenomenon, with 26 people choosing to die at the same time as their partners in 2022, a number that rose to 58 in 2023, according to figures from the Regional Euthanasia Review Committee (RTE).

Elke Swart, spokesperson from the Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, which approves roughly 1,000 euthanasia requests per year in the Netherlands, said ‘duo euthanasia’ requests were tested against strict individual requirements, rather than considering couples as one case.

Swart said: “Interest in this is growing, but it is still rare… It is pure chance that two people are suffering unbearably with no prospect of relief at the same time… and that they both wish for euthanasia.”

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