Real-Life 'The Notebook' Elderly Couple, Married For 50 Years, Chooses To Die Together After Wife Develops Dementia
Photo By BBC

Real-Life 'The Notebook': Elderly Couple, Married For 50 Years, Chooses To Die Together After Wife Develops Dementia

Jan and Els had been together for nearly 50 years of marriage. In their early 70s, the two made a challenging decision. To end their lives via assisted suicide. Els, the wife, started showing early signs of dementia in 2018, retiring from her job as a teacher. She put off seeing a doctor for as long as she could. After all, she'd watched the decline and death of her father, who suffered from Alzheimer's.

In 2022, Els couldn't ignore the symptoms anymore. Jan and Els went to a doctor in 2022, who confirmed Els' dementia. "She was furious — like a steaming bull," Jan recalled (per BBC). When it became clear her condition wouldn't improve, the couple — with their son — began discussing "duo-euthanasia." (Assisted suicide and duo-euthanasia are legal in the Netherlands under certain conditions.)

The couple's GP was reluctant to carry out their wishes. Dr. Rosemarijn van Bruchem explained the potential reasons why people with early-stage dementia might consider such a final decision.

"Am I going to not be able to do the things I find important? Am I going to not recognize my family anymore? If you can express that well enough, if it is perceivable for both the doctor that is willing to perform euthanasia, as well as the [second] doctor that is specialized in mental competency, the existential fear of what is to come can be the reason to consider euthanasia."

A Couple Decides To Die By Duo-Euthanasia After A Devastating Diagnosis

As their GP ultimately decided against it, Jan and Els then approached a mobile euthanasia clinic. In the case of duo-euthanasia, medics have to be absolutely sure one person isn't influencing the other. That the decision is a mutual desire between both parties. When asked if they felt they were "dying too soon," Jan and Els had a definitive answer.

"I've lived my life, I don't want pain anymore," says Jan, who struggled with chronic back pain. "The life we've lived, we're getting old [for it]. We think it has to be stopped."

"There is no other solution," Els clarified. Ultimately, after spending much-needed time with their children and grandchildren, Jan and Els were administered lethal medication by doctors and died together on Monday, June 3, 2024.