Former Netherlands Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife both die 'hand in hand' by euthanasia after years of poor health


Former Dutch Prime Minister, Dries van Agt, has died by euthanasia, 'hand in hand' with his beloved wife Eugenie. They were both 93.

Euthanasia has been legal in The Netherlands since 2002 for those experiencing 'unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement', and there has been a considerable rise in the number of people opting to end their lives by euthanasia in recent years.

The pair had been in fragile health for some time — in 2019, van Agt suffered a brain hemorrhage while giving a speech at a commemoration event for Palestinians after which he never fully recovered.

Now, tributes have been paid to the diplomat, who was Christian Democrat prime minister of the Netherlands from 1977 until 1982.

The Rights Forum, a human rights organisation which was launched by van Agt in his later years, announced the double-euthanasia on Friday.

The couple, who had been together for more than 70 years, had a farewell service and were buried in the city of Nijmegen this week.

They are survived by their three children.

A statement from The Rights Forum read: 'He died hand in hand with his beloved wife Eugenie van Agt-Krekelberg, the support and anchor with whom he was together for more than 70 years and whom he always continued to refer to as 'my girl.'

Van Agt's biographer, Peter Bootsma, said the politician suffered from after-effects of his brain hemorrhage, saying 'his ability to speak also deteriorated.'

'But the way his life ended is something that characterizes the man,' Mr Bootsma added, 'stubborn and autonomous, until the end. I sometimes thought: they have been married for 65 years, what if one of the two is no longer there?'

A Christian Democrat from traditional Dutch stock, Van Agt became increasingly progressive after he departed politics, ultimately leaving his party in 2017 over ideological differences with the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal's approach to Israel and the Palestinians.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who referred to Van Agt as his 'great-great-grandfather in office,' spoke highly of the former politician.

Rutte said: 'With his flowery and unique language, his clear convictions and his striking presentation, Dries van Agt gave color and substance to Dutch politics in a time of polarization and party renewal.'

Van Agt's political friend Hans Wiegel visited the former CDA leader last week and was also at the farewell service. 

'The two of them resigned,' says the former deputy prime minister. 'He knew it was his last birthday last week. The farewell service was very moving and beautiful. He was my dear friend, we had intensive contact until the end. You could always laugh with him.' 

The Dutch royal family also praised him: 'He took administrative responsibility in a turbulent time and managed to inspire many with his striking personality and colorful style,' King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix said in a joint statement.

They added: 'We remember Dries van Agt with great respect, who served our country for many years as Prime Minister and Minister of Justice.

'He took administrative responsibility in a turbulent time and managed to inspire many with his striking personality and colorful style. His commitment to our country and to maintaining connections in our society deserves great appreciation.'

Van Agt was known for his archaic references and grandiose language, as well as his passion for cycling. He was forced to quit that hobby in 2019 after a fall.

Together with the right-wing Liberal Party, the Christian Democrat Appeal governed the Netherlands with Van Agt as prime minister from 1977 until 1981. 

After elections, he again became prime minister, forming a coalition with the Labor Party and the centrist Democrats 66 in a government that held for a year.

Following a visit to Israel in 1999, he became increasingly vocal about his support for the Palestinian people. He referred to his experience of the trip as a 'conversion.'

In 2009, he founded The Rights Forum, which advocates for a 'just and sustainable Dutch and European policy regarding the Palestine/Israel issue,' according to the non-profit organization.

(Article by Megan Howe republished from MailOnline)

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