Doerte living, 59-year-old German and sick with multiple sclerosis, died this Wednesday at 12:45 pm after being euthanized at his own home, located in the center of Ibiza. Lebender was diagnosed with this degenerative and progressive neurological disease, which affects the central nervous system when he was 24 years old, although it did not begin to manifest seriously until a decade ago. After the Organic Law 3/2021, approved on March 24, regulating euthanasia came into force on June 25, Lebender presented on July 18 the official request to be granted the “death aid service” , on understanding that it was within the assumptions prescribed in that legislation: “Serious, chronic and incapacitating illness or serious and incurable disease causing intolerable physical or psychological suffering.” The guarantee and evaluation commission informed the patient on September 21 that it accepted her request.
“I’ve already suffered a lot, I want to go. It’s not that I don’t want to live, I like to live, it’s that I can’t take this body anymore“She explained weeks before to the Diario de Ibiza. Lebender wanted this newspaper to tell her story, the reasons that drove her to end her life like this and, above all, clarify that what she was going to do was not, she insisted over and over again , a suicide, but a basic right of the human being: to die with dignity and without suffering. The newspaper accompanied her from mid-September until the last day and moment: “My story should be published because many people do not understand euthanasia, they do not accept it. I want to bear witness. I want to help those who have doubts about whether or not it is good to choose to die in this way. First of all it is a difficult decision. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another to live it. “For her, the entry into force of the law was” like a birthday present. ” he obeyed her.
Lebender chose the day to die, although she preferred to use other words, such as leaving or traveling: the great journey”As he called it, it had to be October 27. For having a seven and for being Wednesday. Your favorite number and day.
The “good death”
She received the “good death” (etymological meaning of euthanasia) in the living room of her tiny apartment (in Vila), sitting in the armchair from which she had barely moved most of the day for four years, when the disease weakened her joints so much inferiors that it was impossible for her to stand up: she then went from crawling around the house leaning against the walls to needing the help of a caregiver to be cleaned, get out of bed or be transferred to the armchair or wheelchair. His friend Artur Rettenberger he has been her loyal and devoted caretaker ever since. In four years, this man has only had six days off and four weeks of vacation.
Relieved since learning that her request for euthanasia was accepted, Lebender was sleeping peacefully. He even stopped recurringly imagining in his dreams that I played tennis, possibly an escape valve from his mind in the face of his mobility problems. This Wednesday he dreamed again: with his childhood home. While waiting for the arrival of the medical team, Doerte Lebender remained serene, sweet and smiling, as always, although she shed a few tears when she saw Jacky, her dog: “You will not understand. I can explain it to the others, but to she does not”.
Dressed to “look pretty”
Rettenberger cleaned her, dressed her in the clothes that she had chosen to “be beautiful”, which two weeks ago she bought with a friend (who traveled expressly from Germany to see her) without her knowing when she was going to put them on. She also made up her face, painted her nails emerald, perfumed her, placed a silk scarf around her neck, and wore high-heeled boots studded with silver studs. Wanted to be “maqueada” for the big day.
“Remember in the report that this is not a suicide, insists on the strict regulation that exists in Spain … “, claimed this editor an hour before the nurses and the doctor arrived. Years ago he ruled out going to Switzerland to receive euthanasia:” That is a killing machine . Paying. “I wanted to do it” legally “and without making it sound like suicide.
The table in the room where the euthanasia was performed had been transformed for weeks into a kind of altar, which yesterday was filled with flowers, like the bouquet that her psychologist sent her. There he lit a candle (acquired at Notre Dame 30 years ago and attached to the chandelier of his baptism) that his mother expressly sent him to wear during his transit to death.
Messages from friends
During the wait the posts WhatsApp of friends, such as Pilar, who with a broken voice sent her support: “You are brave in making this decision. Have a rest, you deserve it.” For Doerte, who was moved, this recognition was very important, because until then she believed that her friend did not understand why she was doing it.
Rang ‘Fire light‘, by Herbert Grönemeyer, his favorite singer, whom he listened to every night before going to sleep, the one with the lyrics that tear hearts and that yesterday made Lebender and his caretaker cry a few minutes before the medical team arrived and Rettenberger covered it with two blankets: “It’s a whopping,” he joked. “Aren’t you cold?” Lebender then asked Rafa, another close friend who wanted to be by his side yesterday, when he observed that he was wearing flip flops. Less than two hours after his death, he worried about his health.
The medical team, which arrived at 11:49 a.m. to control the administration of the drugs during what the law defines as the provision of aid for dying, was made up of two nurses and a doctor. Her doctor and her family nurse were also present, who wanted to accompany her at that momentous moment. Since their arrival, the nurses and the doctor treated the patient with extreme sweetness and affection: how are you? How did you spend the night? Do you want to ask any questions? Are you sure? prepare, if something hurts, tell us …
Hand on key
Lebender’s initial desire was to dose herself with the substance that causes cardiorespiratory arrest, one of the options provided by law. But he discarded it: “I wanted self-administration so as not to burden the doctor and nurses with that responsibility. He was aware of what physicians assume. But they told us that the drinkable one, the self-dosing one, is a fairly thick and very bitter liquid. They cannot sweeten or lower it. And it cannot be taken with a straw. It can cause rejection, even seizures. And she did not want to drink something bitter, did not want to choke, or cough. He has problems swallowing, he chokes a lot, “according to Rettenberger. He also did not have enough strength in his hand to open the road yesterday, but they placed the fingers of his left hand on the regulating key at the time it was connected by a nurse.
The substances were administered through a line placed on the back of the right hand (there was another line on the left, in case it was necessary). First, the sedative (to lower the level of consciousness prior to the induction of coma); then an adjuvant (a local anesthetic) and the medicine coma inducer, to finally (after verifying that he was already in a deep coma) proceed with the medicine neuromuscular blocker. The operation lasted nine minutes.
With a command, Rettenberger lowered the back of the chair, raised her legs, covered her body with “her favorite blanket”, blue and with stars, and then asked someone to open the living room window, just as she had asked: she was convinced that yesterday he would not die, but began “a great journey.” “I’m leaving, I’m not dying”he repeated over and over again. His soul, he claimed, would fly out of that small window overlooking a crowded Ibiza street as soon as the drugs ran through his veins: “I will be able to go to all the places I cannot go now, and visit all the people who now I can’t see. Thinking about it makes me feel good. “
This disease is horrible. At first, every four months I felt somewhat less mobile, I lost motor skills. Now every two weeks. With multiple sclerosis, you lose more and more mobility, but you don’t die. I could live 20 more years like this
He counted it slowly, dragging his voice, opening his mouth wide, with difficulty finding the words, because everything from moving his right arm, now practically useless, to swallowing or opening his right eye was becoming more and more difficult: “This disease is horrible. At first, every four months I felt somewhat less mobile, I lost motor skills. Now every two weeks. With multiple sclerosis, you lose more and more mobility, but you don’t die. I could live 20 more years like this. It would be terrible. I don’t want to live like this. My head works, my body does not, although my doctor says that, over time, my mind may not work either. I don’t want to go to that extreme“This Wednesday his suffering ended.