The 12-year-old boy lay flat and still in his hospital bed. The slightest movement made the breathlessness worse. He was physically wasting away from the cancer that began in one foot before spreading throughout his body, and he could no longer sit even propped up by pillows.
He understood from the beginning his disease would kill him. He told his parents and doctors he did not want to become a “vegetable,” or sedated into a sleep from which he might never wake. And so when the morphine left him increasingly groggy and dazed, when he refused yet another pleural tap — where a needle is inserted between the chest wall and the lungs to remove trapped fluid — he asked to be put to death, and in May 2005, he became the youngest reported child in the Netherlands to be granted death by lethal injection.