Euthanasia, a Final Journey from France to Belgium | World News


Brussels: Hemiplegic from birth, almost blind, 43 years old lyddie imhoff She was gradually losing the use of her limbs. Last year, she decided to travel from her native France belgium to undergo Euthanasia –For “the fear of being alive in a dead body”.
An AFP team first joined Lydie in March 2023 to meet with a psychiatrist in Brussels, who gave her the green light to undergo the procedure, which was made legal in Belgium two decades ago but not in France. Still illegal.
They traveled with her again earlier this year, on a final journey from the apartment in eastern France where she lived alone with her pet rabbit, to Brussels where her ashes are now scattered.
Tuesday, January 30 – Besançon, France
Lydie's apartment is nearly empty, the setting sun shining on the bay windows. She sighs as she sits in her wheelchair as her rabbit, Lucky, paces around the room. The sound of his breathing echoes through the empty space.
She tells AFP, “On the one hand I can't wait for the release. On the other hand I feel guilty for leaving behind the people I love. But at the end of the day, it's a choice I've made.” Chosen.”
The mood is serious, but that doesn't stop Lyddie from telling jokes.
“Don't forget to put me keys in the letterbox – otherwise they'll murder me for it!”
Wednesday, January 31 – Departure at dawn
It's still dark outside when Denis Rousseau and his wife Marie-Josée pull up outside Lydie's house in a rented van. The two retired, former anesthetists and nurses are helping them in the process of seeking euthanasia abroad from 2023.
Cut off from her family, Liddy is completely dependent on the support of a handful of friends and volunteers like these.
Sitting in the back seat, she clings to Marie-Josée and pulls out her blanket, still stained with her rabbit's hair – which had been taken in by a foster family the day before she was due to leave.
Once the wheelchair is loaded, Dennis Rousseau starts the engine. This is the first time the pair have taken anyone to Belgium.
“This is first and foremost a humanitarian step,” he says, his eyes fixed on the road ahead. “The political aspect comes second.”
Wednesday, January 31 – Lunch at the range
They break the journey in Longwy, a French town just over the border, where they meet Claudette Pierret, a right-to-die activist who first connects Lydie with Belgian doctor Yves de Locht, who is Will carry out the process.
A table is set for them – “It's like a birthday lunch!” Liddy quipped, before turning serious.
“I just hope that once I get there I'll find peace, I'll be able to get some rest,” she says.
“I'm tired. I'm tired of being a battle every day – against my illness, against my disabilities, against everything.”
“I know I joke, I shoot in the air all day long – but there you have it.”
“What you see here,” she says, pointing to her face, “isn't actually down there.”
After the meal is over, they say goodbye at the front gate. The van set off again for Brussels. Lyddie's day is not over yet. Arriving at the hospital, she finds herself in a large room decorated with a seaside theme.
“Okay – what's the last meal on death row tonight?” she asks.
Wednesday, January 31 – at the hospital in Brussels
Before going to sleep, Lyddie has a final interview with her doctor about the day ahead.
“Is it still okay for you to do this?” De Locht asks.
“Yeah! You're sure I'm not going to wake up, right?” Lyddie answers.
“Tell me what's still on your mind,” he asks.
“I'm thinking about the people I left behind.”
“You know what they'll be thinking? No matter how sad they are, they'll know that you've been freed.”
At the end of their conversation, Lyddie embraces the Doctor. “Your sweater is so soft!” She tells him.
Thursday, February 1
The morning sky in Brussels is a crisp, bright blue. The curtains are drawn in Lyddie's hospital room.
Marie-Josée and Denis Rousseau sit on either side of her bed. Traffic is being disrupted in the entire city due to the farmers' protest, but the doctor reached on time.
He asks Lyddie for the last time if she wants to die. She answers yes.
“Okay, we'll get the product ready. I'll leave you with me for a while, and we'll be back in a few minutes.”
De Locht is assisted by a fellow doctor, Wim Distelmans, who heads the hospital's palliative care unit. In a small laboratory, Distelmans mixes the substance using three vials of thiopental, a barbiturate.
The syringe is ready. The Doctor goes back to Lyddie's room, where Dennis Rousseau introduces her to the Distelmans.
“So he's the Big Boss?” she asks – as the others start laughing loudly.
They gather around the bed. Exchange last words. De Locht announced: “Lydie, I bid you farewell.”
“meet there?” she asks him. “Okay. Goodbye Belgians, goodbye French!”
As the doctors come back out, Lyddie's empty wheelchair sits facing the bedroom door.
De Locht shared his thoughts.
He says, “I felt the disease was slowly killing her and I ended her pain. This is in line with my ethics as a doctor.”
“I don't feel at all like I killed him. I feel like I eased his suffering.”
Later, together with the Distelmans, he finalizes the paperwork he must submit to the country's inspection commission on euthanasia.
Before leaving, he exchanged a few words with Denis and Marie-Josée Rousseau. “We freed him,” he tells them.
Four days after her death, Lydi was cremated and her ashes were scattered by crematorium staff in a memorial garden on the outskirts of Brussels. No family member was present.
Belgium's 2002 law decriminalizing euthanasia requires at least two professional opinions, one from a psychiatrist and one from a doctor, to support the patient's decision.
It stipulates that the request must arise from “continued and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder.”
According to the Federal Inspection Commission, 2,966 people were euthanized in Belgium in 2022. Of that total, 53 were residents of France.

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