European Deafblind Union statement regarding the euthanasia of deaf Belgian twins.
European Deafblind Union (EDBU) and its national members works for equality and full participation in society by deafblind people in all European countries.
On December 14, 2012, deaf twins in Belgium were granted their wish to be euthanized. It was reported that the twins had sought euthanasia because they were turning blind and were scared of becoming isolated, institutionalized and a burden on their family. The press purported that the twins believed it better to be dead than deafblind. It later transpired the twins sought death not only because they were deaf and becoming blind, but because they suffered from other physical challenges and were in pain.
EDBU was shocked by the news reports stating that the deaf Belgian twins were granted euthanasia after learning that they would lose their sight. We were dismayed with the reports as deaf blindness is not a deadly disease, nor is it associated with long physical pain or suffering. With assistance from rehabilitation experts, sign language services and family members it is possible to live a fulfilled and rich life as deafblind.
We do not know to what extent the prospect of becoming deafblind influenced the brothers’ decision to apply for euthanasia, but the media coverage of this case certainly reflects a lack of knowledge about deaf blindness and prejudices associated with the condition. We are worried that physicians and other professionals, especially those who approve euthanasia, do not have sufficient information regarding the abilities and possibilities for deafblind people.
The media coverage of this case is a horrible example for deafblind and those with prospects of becoming deafblind in particular, and people living with disabilities in general. We are very concerned that these reports may influence other people with disabilities, or people with a fear of becoming disabled, to seek and be granted euthanasia.
EDBU call on all countries where euthanasia is legal or planned to review the legislation for euthanasia and make sure that the general public knows of the possibilities and opportunities for people living with disabilities.