26 Days

Shortlist 2018

Sandra Hoyn

Sandra Hoyn studied photography at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg, Germany, graduating in 2005. She started working as a freelance photojournalist for magazines, NGOs and on her personal projects, concentrating on social, environmental and human rights issues. Since 2007 she has been represented by laif, a photo and reporting agency. In 2017 she received the first prize of the Sony World Photography Awards in the "Daily Life" category and POYi s of the Year International's third place in the "Portrait" category. In 2016 she received the Magnum Photography Award in the "Photo Journalism" category, and in 2015 the World Press Photo third prize in the "Nature singles" category.

The Conflict

26 Days

Aurelia is 29 and will die soon. Because it is her decision. I accompanied Aurelia during her last weeks until her death. In the Netherlands, where Aurelia lives, euthanasia is allowed since 2002. Every year several thousand people end their lives there, legally assisted by a doctor, because their pain is unbearable and there is no chance for recovery.  When does suffering grow too strong to live on? Aurelia suffers from serious mental illnesses. She has the borderline syndrome, depressions, various anxiety disorders, eating disorders. She has gone through all possible treatments and therapies. She says, "I would love to live, but I want to end my suffering! The only way to reach this point for me is to die." Aurelia says she does not wish to encourage people to kill themselves. She wants those really determined to end their lives because of suffering get the chance to die by their own volition and assisted by a doctor. Not alone, not after a self-mixed overdose, not after a jump in front of a train or from a high building. But at home, in their own beds and surrounded by their loved ones and in dignity.

Although euthanasia is legal for mentally ill people in the Netherlands, doctors rarely allow it. In the Levenseindekliniek (end-of-life clinic) 457 out of the 503 applications of mentally ill people were denied in 2017.  On the 31th of December 2017, Aurelia received a phone call from the clinic: she will be allowed to die in 26 days. The doctors of the euthanasia clinic have certified that Aurelias fight for healing is without any prospect of success. Is this a scandal? Or is it time to talk about the matter that also mentally ill people can reach the point where their suffering is unbearable, and it should more ethical to help them ending their lives in order to relieve their pain and suffering?