Else "Els" Borst-Eilers (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛlsə ˈɛls ˈbɔrst ˈɛilərs]; 22 March 1932 – 8 February 2014) was a Dutch politician of the Democrats 66 (D66) party. She served as Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport from 22 August 1994 until 22 July 2002 in the Cabinets Kok I and II. Borst also served as Deputy Prime Minister from 3 August 1998 until 22 July 2002 in the Second purple cabinet. For the Dutch general election of 1998 she was the Lijsttrekker (top candidate) and served as Leader of the Democrats 66 from 15 February 1998 until 30 May 1998. The Democrats 66 lost ten seats and Borst became the Parliamentary leader of the Democrats 66 in House of Representatives serving from 19 May 1998 until 30 May 1998 and as a Member of the House of Representatives from 19 May 1998 until 3 August 1998.
Education and academic career
Borst attended the Barlaeus Gymnasium of Amsterdam graduating in 1950. The same school was attended by People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) leader Frits Bolkestein, who was one class below her. Between 1950 and 1958, she followed a medical education at the University of Amsterdam where she obtained her medical degree in 1958. Subsequently, Borst worked as a resident physician at the hospital Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis in Amsterdam where she specialized in pediatric medicine and immunohaematology. In 1965 Borst started writing her doctoral thesis, while working as a medical scientist at Utrecht University, researching immunohaematology. In 1972 she received her Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Amsterdam following research on the development and prevention of rhesus immunisation. In 1969 she was the head of the Bloodbank of the University Hospital of Utrecht, and in 1976 she became medical director of that hospital. In 1986 she left this position to become vice-chair of the Health Council, which she combined from 1992 with a position as professor in "evaluating medical actions" at the University of Amsterdam. In the Health Council she chaired the committees on immunisation, genetics and medical ethics. Borst held several other positions in the medical world: she was chairperson of the College for Blood Transfusion as well as of the Committee on Research in Medical Ethics. In 1968 she joined the Democrats 66 , and was active as a rank-and-file member. In 1976 for instance, when the Democrats 66 had lost nearly all its members and performed particularly bad in the polls, Borst was a volunteer in the promotion and revitalization campaign of the party, led by Jan Terlouw.
In 1994 Borst became minister of Health for the Democrats 66 in the First cabinet of Wim Kok. As a minister, Borst was known for two things, for introducing progressive legislation in medical ethics and for her attempts to reform the medical system to better cope with the aging population.
In 2001 she implemented a law legalizing Euthanasia in the Netherlands under certain extraordinary conditions, and only when extensive protocols had been followed by the physician, and subject to an obligation of full reporting to a governing body. The law (Dutch: de Wet Toetsing levensbeëindiging en hulp bij zelfdoding, law on the legal review of euthanasia and assisted suicide) is considered her most important contribution in politics.
Other progressive decisions she is responsible for include:
- In 1994 she strengthened the rights of patients, giving them the right to information and privacy, and the explicit right to refuse treatment.
- In 1996 she implemented the law on organ donation. As a result of the law, all Dutch citizens are asked when whether they wanted to become organ donor when they are 18 years old.
- In 2001 the law on foetal tissue was passed, which legalized the scientific use of foetal tissue for medical research applications, if the parents agreed and if the foetal tissue was the result of an abortion or miscarriage.
- In 2002 she prevented xenotransplantation.
- In 2002 she gave permission to the Women on Waves group to offer pregnant women the abortion pill on board their boat, Aurora.
- She also defended the Dutch system of soft drugs.
She faced political problems preparing the Dutch medical system for the aging of the population. An important part of her reforms of the medical system was to integrate the health insurance system (which had a public and private part), achieving that all citizens would pay the same amount for the same coverage. Although her ministry's budget was drastically increased during this period, she still had to limit the budgets of the hospitals. This led to a problem of long waiting lists for simple medical procedures. From both the political left and the political right she was criticized for what was seen as her mismanagement of the medical system.
In the 1998 elections Borst succeeded Hans van Mierlo as Lijsttrekker (top candidate) for the Democrats 66 . She was parachuted by the party's leadership in a press-conference where Van Mierlo announced her candidacy with the words: "It's a girl, and we call her Els." Words which were similar to those that parents use to announce the birth of their new born child. Although Borst lost the elections -her party lost ten of its twenty-four seats- she remained the minister of Health, and became deputy-prime-minister. During the formation talks Borst served as Parliamentary leader of the Democrats 66 in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands from 19 May 1998 until 30 May 1998 and was the Informateur for the Democrats 66.
After the parliamentary inquiry in the El Al Flight 1862 (Bijlmer Plane Crash), Borst faced a motion of no confidence in June 1999. The inquiry committee had concluded that Borst and her ministry of Health did not react well to the health problems of survivors of the disaster. The motion was rejected by parliament after an eighteen-hour-long debate.
After a 2001 interview in the NRC Handelsblad Borst also faced another motion of no-confidence. In the interview she had said "It has been done" (Dutch: "Het is volbracht") on completing the law on euthanasia. Which according to the Bible are the last words of Jesus, on the cross. The orthodox Protestant parties ChristianUnion (ChristenUnie or CU) and Reformed Political Party (SGP), who had opposed euthanasia were insulted by this. Although the motion was not carried by parliament, Borst made her apologies for those words to parliament.
Life after politics
Before the 2002 elections she retired from political life. On 8 February 2003 she became honorary member of the Democrats 66. Borst held many positions in public life, serving as member of the Remembrance of the Dead and Liberation Day Committees. She also held many positions in the medical world, she was chairperson of the board of NIVEL (National Institute for Scientific Research in Medicine), chairperson of the Federation of Dutch Cancer Patients Organizations and chair of the advisory board of the Brain Foundation of the Netherlands.
Borst was found dead on the evening of 10 February 2014 in the garage at her home in Bilthoven by two close friends. The eighty-one-year-old former politician was reported to be in good health after recovering from breast cancer a few years before. Dutch police concluded that Borst died on 8 February, just hours after attending a party congress of the Democrats 66 in Amsterdam, where she was reported to be visibly active and upbeat and left the party congress on her own and walked to the Amsterdam Centraal railway station nearby. On 1 September 2015 the Public Prosecution Service released a statement that Borst died from forty-one stab wounds to her head, neck and hands. On 26 January 2015 police announced that a man with a criminal record had been arrested based on a DNA match; this man was already under arrest because he is suspected of murdering his sister. Early in 2016 he confessed to the murder of his sister (almost a year after the murder of Borst). He said he killed his sister because they had different opinions on abortion and euthanasia. In February 2016 he confessed to having killed Borst because divine inspiration told him to do so, holding her responsible for the Dutch policy on euthanasia. Later he stated he had no intention to kill mrs. Borst, but wanted to ask her the address of former prime-minister Wim Kok. When she refused to give the address, he remembered Borst had been responsible for the policy on euthanasia. In April 2016 he was convicted for the two murders and was sentenced TBS (Involuntary commitment) because he had been diagnosed with chronic paranoia and schizophrenia.
- Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (1989)
- Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau (10 December 2002)
- On 21 December 2012, she was granted the honorary title of Minister of State.
- (Dutch) Aletta Jacobsprijs voor Els Borst, NOS, 8 March 2012
- Jon Henley (29 November 2000). "Dutch MPs vote to legalise mercy killings". The Guardian.
- Toby Sterling (15 February 2014). "Els Borst: Dutch health minister whose greatest achievement was drafting her country's law permitting euthanasia". The Independent.
- Geraldine Coughlan (2 July 2002). "Legal boost for Dutch abortion ship". BBC.
- "Dutch ex-minister Els Borst found dead in garage". BBC. 11 February 2014.
- (Dutch) Els Borst al op 8 februari gedood, NOS, 11 March 2014
- (Dutch) Els Borst lag al twee dagen dood in garage, Nu.nl, 11 March 2014
- (Dutch) Els Borst lag twee dagen dood in garage, RTL Nieuws, 11 March 2014
- (Dutch) , NOS, 1 September 2015
- "Bart van U. condoleert familie Els Borst in rechtszaal".
- "Bart van U. vermoordde Els Borst 'om euthanasiebeleid'". De Volkskrant (in Dutch). 4 February 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- (Dutch) Benoeming ministers van Staat, Rijksoverheid, 21 December 2012
- "Dutch ex-minister Els Borst found dead". The Guardian. 11 February 2014.
- (Dutch) Dr. E. (Els) Borst-Eilers Parlement & Politiek
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|Party political offices|
Hans van Mierlo
|Leader of the Democrats 66
| Succeeded by|
Thom de Graaf
Thom de Graaf
|Parliamentary leader of the Democrats 66 in the |
House of Representatives of the Netherlands
|Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport of the Netherlands
| Succeeded by|
Hans van Mierlo
|Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Served alongside: Annemarie Jorritsma
| Succeeded by|