Husband and Wife, 70 and 71, Die Together Through Euthanasia: 'There Is No Other Solution'

"I’ve lived my life, I don’t want pain anymore,” said Jan Faber before his death

<p>People Images/Getty</p>

People Images/Getty

A couple from the Netherlands opted to end their lives with euthanasia together.

After meeting in kindergarten, Jan Faber, 70, and his wife Els van Leeningen, 71,  — from Friesland — had a lifelong partnership. The couple was married for nearly five decades. Jan worked as a sports coach while Els was a primary school teacher.

However, Jan struggled for years with back pain and even after surgery in 2003, he saw no improvements. His chronic pain ultimately left him unable to work and he often spoke about euthanasia, telling his family he didn’t want to live with his physical limitations.

In November 2022, Els was diagnosed with dementia. “This is very good,” she told BBC, pointing to her body. “But this is terrible,” she added, pointing to her head. With both of their conditions declining, Jan’s discussion of euthanasia became more of a reality. The pair ultimately opted for duo-euthanasia — to end their lives together.

The procedure became legal in the Netherlands when the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act was passed in April 2001, taking into effect in April 2002. With its passing, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to make euthanasia legal. The country's official government website states that the procedure is performed by a physician who administers "a fatal dose of a suitable drug to the patient on his or her express request."

"Requests for euthanasia often come from patients experiencing unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement,” the website states. “Their request must be made earnestly and with full conviction. They see euthanasia as the only escape from the situation. However, patients have no absolute right to euthanasia and doctors no absolute duty to perform it.”

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<p>Kathleen Finlay/Getty</p>

Kathleen Finlay/Getty

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The couple made the decision before Els' dementia worsened and she was no longer able to make the decision on her own.

“If you take a lot of medicine, you live like a zombie,” Jan explained. “So, with the pain I have, and Els’ illness, I think we have to stop this.”

When he said “stop this,” he told the outlet that he meant stop living. "I’ve lived my life, I don’t want pain anymore,” he continued. “The life we’ve lived, we’re getting old. We think it has to be stopped.”

"There is no other solution," Els said.

Their son, who asked to remain anonymous, told BBC that it was a “strange day” losing both of his parents.

“I remember we were having dinner in the evening, and I got tears in my eyes just watching us all having that final dinner together,” he told the outlet. “The final half hour was difficult. The doctors arrived and everything happened quickly - they follow their routine, and then it’s just a matter of minutes.”

Doctors administered the lethal medication to Jan and Els on June 3 and the couple died together at a local hospice.

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