When former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife Eugenie got married, they recited about loving and supporting each other until death do them part. But at the moment of truth they decided that not even the death of one or the other was going to create a gap between them, and a few days ago, at the age of 93, they said goodbye to this earthly world in a double act of euthanasia, which It is legal in the Netherlands.
History, mythology and cinema are full of cases of lovers who die together, or in each other's arms, or in which one commits suicide unable to come to terms with the death of his partner (Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Aida and Ramasés, Marco Antonio and Cleopatra, those from Teruel...), but in very few of them the final act of love occurs simultaneously and hand in hand, perfectly synchronized, like that of Eugenie and Dries. Before medical advances that make painless and controlled euthanasia possible, there was always a poisonous potion, a dagger, a knife. Except, if, like what happened to Bonnie and Clyde, it was the police who riddled them with bullets.
Another crucial difference is that it is not a tragic love story with an inevitably unhappy ending, but rather a happy story, of seventy years of love and death already in old age (both were 93), after a prosperous life that gave them three children, only clouded by the illness that had deteriorated the health of both to the point of deciding that it was not worth continuing to suffer.
The Dutch Christian Democrat premier and his wife met as students at the University of Nijmegen, the same town where they were buried, and he always referred to her as “my girl.” The politician, of Catholic tradition, worked as a diplomat in the EEC, was president of the European Council prior to Margaret Thatcher's mandate and served as prime minister of the country between 1977 and 1982, being known for his sarcastic sense of humor, grandiloquent language, convictions. firmness and a certain mysticism (his rivals called him “the Jesuit”). A great cyclist, he used to go out on a bicycle to cover important distances in the company of Dutch professionals who participated in the Tour de France, and he only gave up that passion, for health reasons, when he was about to turn ninety. A brain hemorrhage greatly deteriorated his quality of life, depriving him of speech almost completely.
After retiring from the political spotlight, Dries van Agt adopted positions much further to the left than those he had defended in power at the head of Christian democracy, opposing in 2010 the agreement between his former party and the far-right Geerts Wilders. After visiting Israel in 1999, he founded a human rights organization called Rights Forum (which is the one that broke the news of his and his wife's death), advocating for “a fair, equitable and sustainable European policy that guarantees the rights of the people.” Palestinian”, and calling Benjamin Netanyahu a “war criminal”.
Euthanasia (in which medical staff give the injection or provide the medication that causes death) and assisted suicide (in which the patient does it themselves) have been legal in the Netherlands since 2002 if specific requirements are met. , as “unbearable suffering without any prospect of improvement”, and a “voluntary, conscious and repeated” request. Two years ago (the last one for which there is data), nine thousand Dutch people ended their lives in this way, 58 of them as couples, like Eugenie and Dries.
After Holland, a pioneer on the subject, Belgium and Luxembourg followed in their footsteps in legalizing euthanasia. It is currently allowed in a total of nine countries (Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Colombia, Canada and New Zealand, in addition to the previous ones), as well as in eleven North American states - Oregon was the first in 1997 - and in all of Australia, with the exception of the Northern Territories and the capital Canberra, where it is in the processing phase.
In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons voted in 2015 against legalizing the practice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland, which has its own legal system, does not allow it either), which is punishable by fourteen years in prison. jail. Former television presenter Esther Rantzen, who suffers from terminal cancer, is leading the campaign for a reconsideration of the issue amid growing social and political pressure. In Switzerland, assisted suicide is completely legal but euthanasia is not.
Dying together, hand in hand, after seventy years. A great love story for tomorrow, Valentine's Day.