Intended for healthcare professionals


Christian de Duve

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 18 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3821
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Pioneer in modern cell biology and Nobel Prize winner

In early April 2013 Christian de Duve decided that he wanted to end his life, which, in his own words, had been “extraordinarily rewarding” and full of “joy and pleasure.” He had fallen at home and was unable to stand on his own. Already impaired by several health problems, including cancer, the 95 year old Nobel laureate spent several humiliating hours prone on the floor before help arrived to lift him up. He felt the fall was a sign of worse to come.

A few weeks later, on 4 May 2013, his two sons and two daughters gathered around him at his home in Nethen, Belgium, where euthanasia is legal. The time had come. He was ready to die. Two doctors were on hand to carry out his wish.

“He bid us adieu,” one of his daughters later told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir, “and he smiled at us, and then he left us.”

In an interview published by Le Soir two days after his death, de Duve said that he felt serene, knowing that his life would soon end.1 But he …

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