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Belgium Permits Deaf Twins to be Euthanized

Two 45 year-old twins who were born deaf were permitted to be euthanized by lethal injection under Belgium law after they discovered that they had glaucoma and would soon to go blind.

The Telegraph is reporting that doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette, Belgium, permitted Marc and Eddy Verbessem to commit suicide after their local hospital refused the request because neither man was suffering from a terminal illness or from unbearable suffering.

However, the men contended that they had spent their whole lives together, working as cobblers and sharing an apartment, and could not bear the idea of never being able to see one another again.According to the twins' older brother, Dirk Verbessem, his brothers were "worn out" from their many health problems. For instance, Eddy had a deformed spine and recently underwent heart surgery. When they found out they were going blind from glaucoma, it was more than they could bear."The great fear that they would no longer be able to see, or hear, each other and the family was for my brothers unbearable," Dirk said.

The case has caused widespread outrage.

"Is this the only humane response that we can offer in such situations?" asked Chris Gastmans, professor of medical ethics at the Catholic University of Leuven, who is concerned about the welfare of disabled people at large.

"I feel uncomfortable here as an ethicist. Today it seems that euthanasia is the only right way to end life. And I think that's not a good thing. In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty."

Belgian law permits people over the age of 18 to be euthanized if he or she is able to make their wishes clear and a doctor determines that their suffering is unbearable.

In the Verbessem case, neither man was terminally ill nor suffering physical pain.

Just days after the twins' death, Belgium's ruling Socialist party put forth a new amendment that will allow children and Alzheimer's sufferers to be euthanized.

If passed, the new law will allow euthanasia to be "extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate."

The Telegraph reports that 1,133 people were euthanized in Belgium in 2011, mostly for terminal cancer. Euthanasia has been legal in that country since 2002.

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