Deaf twin brothers Marc and Eddy Verbessem of Belgium decided to end their lives in tandem rather than go blind.

The 45-year-olds, who lived and worked as cobblers together their entire adult lives, were doomed to blindness by a genetic form of glaucoma, and couldn't bear the thought of being unable to see each other, according to their family.

Their older brother Dirk and their parents, Mary and Remy, attempted to talk them out of it, but were eventually persuaded that it was for the best.

It took the brothers two years, but they eventually found a doctor willing to perform the lethal injection.

"They were very happy. It was a relief to see the end of their suffering," said the family's physician, Dr. David Dufour. "They had a cup of coffee in the hall, it went well and a rich conversation. The the separation from their parents and brother was very serene and beautiful. At the last there was a little wave of their hands and then they were gone."

The euthanasia was a first for Belgium, which legalized the practice in 2002.

"It's the first time in the world that a 'double euthanasia' has been performed on brothers," said the euthanizing doctor, Professor Wim Distelmans of Brussels University Hospital.

Belgium requires that patients who seek euthanasia be consenting adults who make their decision in "full conscience." Also, it must be determined that patients are "suffering unbearable pain."

Distelmans said blindness "was certainly unbearable psychological suffering for them," but added that other doctors might interpret suffering differently.

Euthanasia remains controversial in Belgium, even as the socialist government moves to allow euthanasia of minors and patients with Alzheimer's.

[photo via Gazet Van]