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Deaf Belgian twins euthanized after discovering that they are going blind

Euthanasia for adults has been legal in Belgium since 2002. This case marks first time two brothers have been permitted to die together.

Dutch mobile death 12 02 29Enlarge
This picture taken in April 2005 shows a euthanasia kit available in Belgian pharmacies for general practitioners who want to practise euthanasia at patients' homes. Now patients in the Netherlands will have access to a specialised mobile euthanasia unit it they satisfy strict criteria. (ETIENNE ANSOTTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old twin brothers who were born deaf, were euthanized in Belgium on Dec. 14 after finding out they were going blind, in a case that has drawn euthanasia in Europe back into the spotlight.

It's the first assisted suicide case in which two brothers have been allowed to die together, and is also unusual because neither man was in extreme pain or terminally ill at the time of death.

The two men, who were born deaf, began to seek out a doctor who would help them to die after learning they were going blind because they couldn't stand the idea of never seeing one another again, according to the Telegraph.

Read more from GlobalPost: Dutch mobile euthanasia clinic ready to go

Both Marc and Eddy had a pleasant ending, doctor David Dufour, who assisted with the deaths, told the Australian Herald Sun.

“They had a cup of coffee in the hall, it went well and a rich conversation. The separation from their parents and brother was very serene and beautiful. At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone," Dufour told RTL television news.

Only Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands currently allow the non-terminally ill to seek help in ending their own lives, according to the Economist.

Legally, euthanasia and assisted suicide are defined differently. In the UK, the government defines euthanasia as "the act of deliberately ending a person's life to relieve suffering," while assisted suicide "is the act of deliberately assisting or encouraging another person who commits, or attempts to commit, suicide."

Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002, and Belgium's current socialist government has put forth a controversial amendment that would allow dementia sufferers and children to commit legal suicide, as well, wrote Agence France-Presse.

Read more from GlobalPost: India: Euthanasia allowed in extreme cases

"The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to," said party leader Thierry Giet of the new measure.

According to the European Institute of Bioethics, 1,113 Belgians committed assisted suicide in 2011, and 91 percent of the requests occurred when the patient's death was "expected in the short term."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/benelux/130114/deaf-belgian-twins-commit-suicide-after-discovering-they