Update: Lauren's parents posted an update to Lauren's blog confirming her death. They wrote: "Lauren passed away peacefully at 1.55 pm in the presence of her parents Leonie and Peter and her best friend Lau. We would like to thank you for your compassion and support. Leonie, Peter and Lau."
A young woman in the Netherlands with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) has shared an emotional post announcing that she will be euthanised on Saturday 27 January.
Lauren Hoeve, 28, started documenting her application for euthanasia in 2022 on her blog. She was diagnosed with ME in 2019, and also has autism, anxiety, and ADHD. ME is often referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, however, Hoeve prefers not to use that term as she believes it doesn't encompass the severity of her exhaustion.
Assisted dying has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002. According to the Dignity in Dying campaign group, there are on average around 3,500 cases of assisted dying or voluntary euthanasia a year in the country.
In Hoeve's blog, she recounts that when she first told her GP about wanting to be voluntarily euthanised, he told her he respected her wishes but could not do it himself as her case was complex due to her psychological conditions.
She was placed on the waiting list to be seen by euthanasia specialists, but the wait was longer than usual because of the pandemic. Since then, Hoeve has seen several doctors who assessed her and found in April 2023 that she was ‘mentally competent’ signing off on her wish to be euthanised.
Hoeve has been posting on X (formerly known as Twitter) about her health, and gained a following that saw people sending messages of encouragement, support and also cat content, as Hoeve is a self-described 'stay at home cat parent'.
On Wednesday, Hoeve posted on her blog, thanking people for their support and announcing that her euthanasia will take place sometime on Saturday between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. She wrote: “If we have known each other long and well or only a little, it doesn't matter. Through you all, I have felt less alone, and I am very grateful for that.”
She added: "Please don't wish me a good trip, I wish I was going on a trip (a beach holiday would be nice)..."
She has asked those who wish to pay tribute online to wait until after she has passed.
Hoeve's mother, who also lost her son, has also written a blog post about the planned euthanasia, saying: "What is it like for me, as a mother, to now lose my second child? It's very sad and surreal. My mother's heart bleeds... Please know that we have done everything realistically possible to find a way out. She still wanted to get so much out of life, but she doesn't want to live to be 30 years old like this, let alone 60 or 80 years old."
She added: "The only thing I see as a bright spot is that I no longer have to fear losing my children. I know where they are."
Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a serious long-term condition with a wide range of symptoms. It is more common in women, and tends to develop between the mid-20s and mid-40s. According to the NHS, severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day.
While documenting her experiences, Hoeve has encouraged followers to support organisations doing clinical research and trying to find a cure for the condition.
If you want to help, you can support or donate to @OpenMedF for research: https://t.co/ars1pOrlLA
or advocacy organizations like @MEActNet: https://t.co/uy8xe7qIaS
Engaging with social media posts about ME also helps for awareness! Thank you! 💙#pwME #severeMEday https://t.co/pxW3Q1xBOB
— Lauren ✨ (@dutchlauren) August 8, 2023
In November, a local Dutch ambulance charity booked out an entire cinema so that Hoeve, a huge Taylor Swift fan, could watch her idol with family and friends.
Euthanasia in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, anyone can make an application for euthanasia, but there are several rounds of assessments that must be done, especially if there are extenuating circumstances beyond someone's physical health.
There were 8,720 reported instances of euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2022, the highest number to date. A majority of the cases were of people with cancer, while there was an increase in the cases that cited dementia.
Five people under the age of 30 were also euthanised, which has led to criticism from some doctors. Dutch professor Irene Tuffrey-Wijne told AP: “There’s no doubt in my mind these people were suffering, but is society really OK with sending this message, that there’s no other way to help them and it’s just better to be dead?”
Last year, the Dutch government lowered the age for assisted dying to children as young as one year old. However, in order for a child to be eligible, there are strict criteria they to meet, predominantly that they must be terminally ill to the point that palliative care wouldn’t provide any relief.
This came after the highly publicised case of four-year-old Luuk, who died two years after being diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, a degenerative condition that affects the central nervous system.
Assisted dying in the UK
It is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. There is no specific crime in Scotland. In 2015, a bill to legalise assisted dying in the UK was defeated.
However, it continues to be a source of debate. Most recently, this has been led by presenter Dame Esther Rantzen, who revealed last month she is considering the option of assisted dying if her lung cancer treatment does not improve her condition.
The 83-year-old Childline founder and broadcaster has joined Dignitas, an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland. Her family could be prosecuted if they were to travel with her.
In an interview with the BBC’s The Today Podcast in December, she called for a free vote in Parliament on assisted dying as she feels it is “important that the law catches up with what the country wants”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed calls for a change in the law, saying last month “I personally do think there are grounds for changing” it. The Health and Social Care Committee is due to publish its report into assisted dying and assisted suicide in England and Wales, having launched an inquiry in December 2022 to examine different perspectives in the debate.
If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, you can contact The Samaritans for confidential emotional support at any time by calling 116 123 or email email@example.com.