Married Dutch couple, 70 and 71, who spent their lives together after meeting in pre-school are killed by lethal injection in double-euthanasia

Monday, July 01, 2024 - A devoted Dutch couple who spent their lives together after meeting pre-school have died by lethal injection in double euthanasia.

Jan Faber and Els van Leeningen, aged 70 and 71, were married for almost five decades before they ended their lives by lethal injection at the same time in early June.

In the moments before their deaths, the pair were surrounded by friends and family, including their son, who had found his parents' decision to end their lives hard to take.

'You don't want to let your parents die,' Jan said of his reaction. 'So there have been tears - our son said, "Better times will come, better weather"- but not for me.' Els agreed, saying before her death: 'There is no other solution.'

Jan, who worked as a cargo boat operator, had been suffering from severe back pain for over 20 years, while his wife was diagnosed with dementia in 2022 which has since worsened.

'I've lived my life, I don't want pain anymore,' Jan told the BBC. 'The life we've lived, we're getting old [for it]. We think it has to be stopped.'

The couple enjoyed a lifelong partnership, first meeting in kindergarten. Jan went on to play hockey for the Netherlands' national youth team before training as a sports coach, while Els became a primary school teacher.

They shared a passion for the sea and spent much of their lives living on boats.

This shared interest was turned into a career, with the pair buying a cargo boat and setting up a goods transportation company.

They had a son, who went to boarding school in the week while they lived on the water, and who they would take on sailing holidays.

After more than a decade of heavy lifting and hands-on work, Jans' back pain became serious, and the couple moved back on land into a caravan.

After undergoing surgery in 2003, Jans stopped working.

While Els was still working as a teacher, her husband's physical limitations and lower quality of life forced the couple to start thinking about assisted dying before they joined NVVE - Netherlands' 'right to die' organisation.

In 2018, Els retired from teaching when she began to show early signs of dementia, a disease her father had suffered and died from.

She was officially diagnosed in November 2022, and it progressively got worse to the point where she struggled to construct sentences.

According to Mail Online, the couple's GP was uncomfortable with accepting their case for euthanasia due to Els' dementia, which can create uncertainty around a patient's capacity to give consent.

The couple turned to the Centre of Expertise on Euthanasia, which gives advice on assisted dying and has a mobile clinic that carries out procedures in patients' homes.

Ahead of their appointment, Els and Jan spent the day with their son and grandchildren.

They played games, chatted and Els went for a beach walk with her son.

'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 said.

On the day they were due to die, Els and Jan had two final hours together with their loved ones.

They used the time to share their memories and listened to music - Idlewild by Travis for Els, the Beatles' Now and Then for Jan.

After that, their son said, the doctors came in and 'everything happened quickly', with the medics following their procedures and then it happening in 'just a matter of minutes'.

The couple were administered lethal injections simultaneously by two doctors and died together on June 3.

In 2023, 9,068 people died by euthanasia in the Netherlands - up 348 in 2022.

Of the 8,720 people to die by euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2022, 29 were couples. In 2021, 16 couples died this way. In 2018, there were nine.

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