Belgian Nobel laureate dies through euthanasia

Euthanasia claimed its most famous victim last Saturday. At the age of 95, Belgian Nobel laureate Christian de Duve was killed with a lethal injection. He died in his home, surrounded by his four children.

He had planned his death for weeks and even explained his reasons and his philosophy of life in a long interview with the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. This was published immediately after his demise. Apparently de Duve had cancer, but he had also fallen down on April 1 and spent several humiliating hours on the floor. He took it as a sign of worse to come and decided to set a date for his euthanasia – which is legal in Belgium. 

Born in 1917, Dr de Duve was deservedly famous in Belgium as its only living Nobel laureate. He shared the 1974 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine with Albert Claude and George E. Palade. His contribution was describing the structure and function of discovered peroxisomes and lysosomes, small structures within cells. In his very active retirement, he devoted himself to writing about the origin of life.

No doubt de Duve’s death will be used by the euthanasia and assisted suicide lobbies in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere as an advertisement for legalisation. Belgian notables tumbled over themselves to eulogise his memory. Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo praised his exemplary career and public spirit. Leading politician Paul Magnette lauded  his conviction and courage. P.Z. Meyers, of the popular blog Pharyngula, exclaimed: “What a dignified and honorable way to go!”

This article is published by Michael Cook and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

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