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Her Excellency
Els Borst
Els Borst februari 2002.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister
In office
3 August 1998 – 22 July 2002
Serving with Annemarie Jorritsma
Prime Minister Wim Kok
Preceded by Hans Dijkstal
Hans van Mierlo
Succeeded by Eduard Bomhoff
Johan Remkes
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
19 May 1998 – 3 August 1998
Parliamentary group Democrats 66
Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives
In office
19 May 1998 – 30 May 1998
Preceded by Thom de Graaf
Succeeded by Thom de Graaf
Parliamentary group Democrats 66
Leader of the Democrats 66
In office
15 February 1998 – 30 May 1998
Preceded by Hans van Mierlo
Succeeded by Thom de Graaf
Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport
In office
22 August 1994 – 22 July 2002
Prime Minister Wim Kok
Preceded by Hedy d'Ancona
Succeeded by Eduard Bomhoff
Personal details
Born Else Eilers
(1932-03-22)22 March 1932
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died 8 February 2014(2014-02-08) (aged 81)
Bilthoven, Netherlands
Cause of death Murdered
Nationality Dutch
Political party Democrats 66 (from 1968)
Spouse(s) Jan Borst (m. 1960; his death 1988)
Children 3 children
Alma mater University of Amsterdam (Bachelor of Medical Sciences, Master of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Philosophy)
Occupation Politician · Physician · Researcher · Hospital administrator · Professor

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 and also served as Deputy Prime Minister from 3 August 1998 until 22 July 2002 in the Second purple cabinet. For the 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.[1] She retired from politics in 2002. In retirement Borst was murdered on 8 February 2014 by a mentally unstable man.[2]


Education and academic career[edit]

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.

Political career[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]
  • 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.[citation needed] From both the political left and the political right she was criticized for what was seen as her mismanagement of the medical system.[citation needed]

Els Borst with Hans van Mierlo and Alexander Pechtold in 2009.

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.

During her ministry she became a member of the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.

Life after politics[edit]

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.[6] 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,[7][8][9] 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.[10] On 26 January 2015 police announced that a man with a criminal record had been arrested based on a DNA match; this man was arrested two weeks earlier on suspicion of involvement in the murder of his sister.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[12] On 13 April 2016 Van U. was convicted of the two murders and sentenced to TBS (Involuntary commitment) on the grounds of a diagnosis of chronic paranoid psychosis in the context of schizophrenia.

On 16 March 2017 the Court of Appeal of The Hague declared Van U. only partially unaccountable for the murders and sentenced him to eight years in prison and TBS.[14]



  1. ^ (in Dutch) Aletta Jacobsprijs voor Els Borst, NOS, 8 March 2012
  2. ^ "Hof: moordenaar Els Borst is niet volledig ontoerekeningsvatbaar, 8 jaar cel" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Jon Henley (29 November 2000). "Dutch MPs vote to legalise mercy killings". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Toby Sterling (15 February 2014). "Els Borst: Dutch health minister whose greatest achievement was drafting her country's law permitting euthanasia". The Independent. 
  5. ^ Geraldine Coughlan (2 July 2002). "Legal boost for Dutch abortion ship". BBC. 
  6. ^ "Dutch ex-minister Els Borst found dead in garage". BBC. 11 February 2014. 
  7. ^ (in Dutch) Els Borst al op 8 februari gedood, NOS, 11 March 2014
  8. ^ (in Dutch) Els Borst lag al twee dagen dood in garage,, 11 March 2014
  9. ^ (in Dutch) Els Borst lag twee dagen dood in garage, RTL Nieuws, 11 March 2014
  10. ^ (in Dutch) [1], NOS, 1 September 2015
  11. ^ "'Verdachte moord Borst bekent ombrengen zus'" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "Bart van U. condoleert familie Els Borst in rechtszaal". 
  13. ^ "Bart van U. vermoordde Els Borst 'om euthanasiebeleid'". De Volkskrant (in Dutch). 4 February 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Hof: moordenaar Els Borst is niet volledig ontoerekeningsvatbaar, 8 jaar cel" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  15. ^ (in Dutch) Benoeming ministers van Staat, Rijksoverheid, 21 December 2012
  16. ^ "Dutch ex-minister Els Borst found dead". The Guardian. 11 February 2014. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Hans van Mierlo
Leader of the Democrats 66
Succeeded by
Thom de Graaf
Preceded by
Thom de Graaf
Parliamentary leader of the Democrats 66 in the
House of Representatives

Political offices
Preceded by
Hedy d'Ancona
Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport
Succeeded by
Eduard Bomhoff
Preceded by
Hans Dijkstal
Hans van Mierlo
Deputy Prime Minister
Served alongside: Annemarie Jorritsma
Succeeded by
Eduard Bomhoff
Johan Remkes


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