Euthanasia … a good think is needed here …

Daniel Gall’s book published by Michalon of Paris A book here in France of just over 150 pages tells the story of a particular case of assisted suicide: euthanasia, illegal here. On January 18, 2008, the French actor and the ‘French voice’ of numerous American actors, Daniel Gall, watched his sister and his brother-in-law pass […]

Daniel Gall’s book published by Michalon of Paris

A book here in France of just over 150 pages tells the story of a particular case of assisted suicide: euthanasia, illegal here.

On January 18, 2008, the French actor and the ‘French voice’ of numerous American actors, Daniel Gall, watched his sister and his brother-in-law pass away in Zurich, Switzerland, having received the know-how on how to do commit suicide from a Swiss euthanasia organization. (I’m not going to name the organization but Monsieur Gall does.)

His book, J’ai accompagné ma sɶur – ‘I accompanied my sister’ – is a best-seller here. It is a book which I think should be translated into other languages so that more people can read his poignant testimony.

Geneviève (81) and Yves (86) Péninou, both doctors, took the decision to end their lives together. Yves had suffered from prostate cancer but had recovered, but Geneviêve had been struck by Alzheimer’s. They had had a long life together – Yves was married and the father of three children when they met – and neither wanted to leave the other behind.

The two told their families about their decision and after much discussion and their relatives trying to persuade the couple that they still have some years together, Daniel Gall and Yves’ son, Jean-Louis, flew with the two to Zurich; the couple needed two witnesses to what they were about to do. Geneviève and Yves had made a previous trip to the Swiss city when they had discussed what they wished to do, and they had returned to Paris full of praise of the doctors they had met there.

The four spent the night before the day of the ‘act’ in a four-star lake-side hotel and set off for the organization’s premises by cab the following morning; their appointment with death was for 10am.

The cab driver did not react when they gave him the address.

The address, in an industrial sector of Zurich, was a warehouse that looked just like … well a warehouse … and just like all the other neighboring warehouses.

As there was no name on its front door they had to phone the organization to say that they were downstairs and waiting; they had told the cabby not to wait.

A young man, casually dressed, came to open up. He explained that they did not want to put their name on the door because it would only encourage the media to come calling.

Up a bare staircase the four and the young man went and then down a bare corridor to an office where the only items of furniture were a table and some chairs. He used to, the young man said, herd goat up in the mountains. A woman, also casually dressed, joined them. Geneviève and Yves had to sign forms that they were by their own decision taking their lives. The author and Jean-Louis also had to sign declarations that they were aware that the couple were to kill themselves willingly.

The goat herder explained that the old couple would have to drink two potions; one twenty minutes before the other. The first will be tasteless but the second could be bitter. He pointed to a box of chocolate and told the couple that they could help themselves should they need something to take away the taste of the potions.

The papers signed, the two ‘employees’ escorted the four to another room. This was where death would happen. It was almost as bare as the staircase, the corridor and the office; the only items of furniture were a single metal bed (unmade) and an arm-chair. The four were taken back to the office so that the female employee could prepare the room.

While waiting, the goat herder asked Geneviève and Yves whether they still wished to end their lives. Both replied, “Yes”. They were then handed the first potion: it was to prepare the stomach for the second potion. Both helped themselves to a little square of chocolate.

Twenty minutes later the four were taken back to the ‘chamber of death’. There was a sheet on the bed then and a sheet covered the arm-chair.

“Do we have to be present?” asked Daniel Gall.

They had to. They had to witness the act of death although it was also being filmed; the Swiss police needed evidence that no-one had ‘killed’ the couple but that they had died by their own hand.

Yves let his wife have the bed; he would die on the chair. Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis moved the chair closer to the bed so that the old couple could hold hands.

“You will let my sisters know,” said Geneviève to Daniel Gall.

Those were to be her last words.

“It’s bitter!” said Yves when he drank the second and fatal potion.

Those were to be his last words.

Daniel Gall held his sister’s hand and Jean-Louis those of his father. Both the two ‘witnesses’ were in tears. Not the dying couple; they went peacefully as if they were just taking a nap on a hot summer afternoon.

The ‘goat herder’ took the sobbing Daniel Gall in his arms when it was over; it was the only compassion shown that day.

Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis then had to wait for the police to come. A plainclothes copper walked in just before one o’clock. He wanted to know whether the couple had died voluntarily. “Yes,” replied the two witnesses. Next the copper watched the video. A second copper arrived and then a third; they stood around speaking to one another and the two employees in German. No-one interpreted for Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis.

Another two men arrived. They were dressed smartly in dark suits. They offered their condolences to Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis. They were the undertakers having come to collect the two bodies and they were to see to the cremation.

At 3pm, all the formalities having been taken care of – Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis had managed to get going by drinking whisky they had brought along – the two were told that they could go.

Geneviève’s and Yves’ ashes would be dispatched to Jean-Louis in Paris.

Daniel Gall and Jean-Louis flew back to Paris; the first clutched his sister’s coat and little hat and the latter his father’s coat.

The ashes arrived in Paris 27 days later, on February 13, in two large cardboard boxes …

So had ended the lives of two intelligent people.

I do not judge this couple … they wanted to die together … I am though writing this because I think that we should grow up when it comes to euthanasia. This couple could have died in their own home their families around them instead of in a Swiss warehouse …

The book is published by Ėditions Michalon of Paris.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

12 Responses to “Euthanasia … a good think is needed here …”

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  1. 12
    Jo Says:

    That’s not cheap. Here a cremation (through a funeral home) costs about $2,000 Cdn. Dunno about in Europe.

  2. 11
    Marilyn Z. Tomlins Says:

    Jo – No, he did not say, but I know that it costs about 5,000 Euro per person. This is for the ‘package’; the drug, the cremation and all.


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