Dutch alcoholic, 41, chooses lethal injection to end 'unbearable' life

A screenshot of Marcel Langedijk from an interview given to the BBC talking about his brother Mark's decision to choose euthanasia.
A screenshot of Marcel Langedijk from an interview given to the BBC talking about his brother Mark's decision to choose euthanasia.PHOTO: BBC.COM

THE HAGUE (AFP) - A Dutch long-term alcoholic chose to end his life by lethal injection saying he could no longer go on, his brother has revealed in a moving tribute.

Mark Langedijk was 41 and the father of two small sons when he decided the only solution to end his pain and suffering was euthanasia, which was carried out earlier this year in The Netherlands at his parents' home.

"My little brother is dead," wrote Marcel Langedijk, a freelance journalist, in an article for the Dutch magazine Linda published last week.

"It was in his head. It was his problem. What the problem was no one could really ever find out," he added, revealing that his brother had undergone 21 rehab sessions over the last eight years and had had the support of his loving family.

"By the time Mark realised that he needed help, that he needed to talk to someone, it was already too late. By that time alcohol had him in his grip and was not about to let him go."

Langedijk set July 14 as the date for his death - "a nice day to die" - and spent his last hours with his family in his parents' garden, eating cheese and ham sandwiches, and meatball soup, smoking and drinking.

An approved doctor then came and, after Mark had drained the last of his white wine, administered the three injections to put him to sleep and stop his heart.

Contacted by AFP, Langedijk's publicist said the "international reaction" to his article had been "overwhelming and quite unexpected".

He "feels he has said everything he wants to say for now" as he writes a book about his family's experience due out next year.

The Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium became the first countries in the world to legalise euthanasia in 2002. But it is carried out under strict conditions, and only after a minimum of two doctors have certified that there is no other reasonable solution for the patient.

Last year there were 5,516 cases of euthanasia in the country - or 3.9 per cent of all registered deaths.

More than 70 per cent of those who opted to end their lives in this way suffered from cancer. But there were also 2.9 per cent who suffered from dementia or psychiatric illnesses, including some who were described as battling long-term alcohol abuse.

For Mark Langedijk things appeared to have come to head in June. He got into a drunken fight with his flatmate, and when the police called his parents to fetch him, they were babysitting Marcel Langedijk's new 26-day-old daughter.

"He was ashamed, he was in pain, he was mentally and physically exhausted. This was not how he had intended to meet" his baby niece, wrote Marcel Langedijk.

The family had battled for years to help Mark. His parents "did everything humanly possible to save Mark" including caring for his children, giving him money and supporting him through rehab care.

But it was Mark who announced he had "found a solution. He wanted to die. That was his solution."

"After everything he had said in the past year, we took it with a pinch of salt. A large pinch," writes Marcel Langedijk, adding even his doctor had been sceptical.

"Euthanasia was for people with cancer, for people with unbearable lives, for whom death was already imminent. Not for alcoholics."

But Mark proved determined, and a diary he kept over the past year showed to what point his life had become unbearable, "a hopeless cocktail of pain, drink, loneliness and sorrow drips from the page."

He continued to go back to his doctor, to tell her: "I want to die, enough is enough."

And he would not be dissuaded.

With the doctor in the room on his final day, Marcel asked his brother "Mark, let's smoke another one?"

"No," replied his little brother, "I'm going to my death now."

The doctor asked him: "Are you 100 per cent sure this is what you want?"

"In my head, I was crying 'no'. But Mark said 'yes'," wrote Marcel Langedijk.