With his genial manner, check shirt and careful choice of words, Marc Van Hoey seems like any other general practitioner.
As we sit in his cosy first-floor surgery in Antwerp, surrounded by books and mementos of his life in medicine, I ask this music-loving 57-year-old physician and president of Right To Die Flanders how many people he has personally killed since Belgium made euthanasia legal in 2002.
‘Maybe 140,’ he concludes after a quick calculation, adding that he has advised perhaps another 500 on euthanasia procedures. ‘But they did not all go through with it and die, of course.’
This astonishing toll is even higher than attributed to Jack Kevorkian, the infamous American right-to-die advocate who became known as ‘Dr Death’ after he claimed to have helped 129 ailing people end their lives before being convicted of second degree murder for his 130th…
Yet the Flemish doctor could – like Kevorkian – end up in prison. He cannot carry out any more mercy killings as he is being investigated by police over the euthanisation of an elderly woman in 2015 who was threatening to commit suicide after the sudden death of her daughter.
If the case goes to court, he could be charged with poisoning his patient.