In 1994, Dutch journalist Gerbert van Loenen’s partner Niek underwent surgery to remove what was thought to be a pea-sized brain tumour. More complicated than predicted, the operation resulted in a brain injury that left Niek permanently disabled, yet still able to enjoy quality of life.
Van Loenen willingly reorganized his life to care for Niek at home. But after four years, his career needs necessitated moving Niek to a wheelchair-accessible unit across the street from a nursing home, where he was content for six more years until the tumour returned, whereupon he died a natural death.
Van Loenen found himself brooding over certain friends’ reactions to their situation. “It would have been better if he had died,” one said at the outset. [Full text]