A doctor in the Netherlands has performed the euthanasia of an alcoholic who claimed his addiction had turned his life into a “cocktail” of misery.
In possibly the first documented case of euthanasia for alcoholism, Mark Langedijk, a 41-year-old father of two children, was given a lethal injection by his GP.
Langedijk had spent the previous eight years battling against his addiction and had been in hospital and rehabilitation centres 21 times in that period.
His alcoholism had also caused the breakdown of his marriage, making him feel that his life had become “a hopeless cocktail of pain, drink, loneliness and suffering”.
Following an altercation with a fellow alcoholic, he decided that he wanted to die and his GP gave him a lethal injection on July 14.
His brother, Marcel, a journalist, has written about the death in Linda, a Dutch magazine, and will publish a book about his case next year.
But the killing met with condemnation from anti-euthanasia campaigners in the UK who say it shows that euthanasia and assisted suicide are impossible to regulate wherever they become legal.
Robert Flello, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South and a Catholic, said: “Yet again Holland demonstrates it is a dangerous place to have any physical or mental illness, to be struggling with any life challenges, or just to differ from what they might call normal. The state-authorised killing of their citizens is out of control and is, quite frankly, terrifying.”
Fiona Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton, Cheshire, said: “This news is deeply concerning and yet another reason why assisted suicide and euthanasia must never be introduced into the UK.
“What someone suffering from alcoholism needs is support and treatment to get better from their addiction – which can be provided – not to be euthanised.
“It is once again a troubling sign of how legalised euthanasia undermines in other countries the treatment and help the most vulnerable should receive.”
Lord Carlile, a former reviewer of terrorism legislation who has also examined the working of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands, also suggested that the euthanasia of an alcoholic was a disturbing development.
“This is a terrible example of the law diminishing the value of life in Holland,” Lord Carlile said. “Substance misuse or addiction should never justify euthanasia.”
The euthanasia of Langedijk follows the euthanasia of a sex abuse victim who could not live with the memories of the ordeal she suffered as a girl.
The woman, who was in her 20s, was given a lethal injection after battling severe psychiatric problems for 15 years.
Dutch law permits euthanasia only in cases of unbearable and untreatable suffering but it is increasingly used on people with mental health problems.
The latest euthanasia figures from Holland show that the number of mental health patients killed by euthanasia has quadrupled in just four years.
The latest figures also show that the 2015 total of euthanasia deaths – some 5,306 cases – represents a leap of 50 per cent in the last five years.
Langedijk kept a diary in which he detailed his mental anguish as evidence that he could qualify for euthanasia.
Marcel Langedijk’s account of his brother’s death is vivid and tells how the pair sat in their parents’ garden in Overijssel in the hours beforehand, where they joked, smoked, ate ham and cheese sandwiches and meatball soup and drank beer and wine.
The doctor who arrived to carry out the euthanasia was a woman under the age of 40 who was wearing white trainers and a black skirt. Langedijk flirted with her, suggesting they might go on a date if he survived the planned euthanasia.
His brother recalls that as Langedijk drained his wine glass of the last few drops how the doctor proposed they proceed with the euthanasia. “Shall we?” she said.
Marcel then suggested that they had one last cigarette together “as they do in the movies”, but Mark turned to him and said: “No, I’m dying now.”
Langedijk then received three injections from the doctor, the last of which stopped his heart from beating.