In Memoriam: Ton HagenbeekAlways go for the best treatment and never let go

 This week the sad news arrived that Ton Hagenbeek has passed away at the age of 73. Much too young. 

Ton was ‘one of us’ in the Inspire2Live community. He was a real patients doctor. Always interested in the human and in the patient. ‘How are you?’ did not only mean: ‘Tell me about your disease’. No, o it meant in the first place: ‘How are you?’ Talking as a patient with Ton meant that two human beings were speaking with each other. And then, after a while, he asked questions related to your illness. And took the right decision and explained it to you in a very pleasant but sometimes also a bit strict way. And that was necessary because Ton wanted you to have the best treatment and recover. 

Ton worked quite often with us. We will remember his ideas and advises when we were working on formula magistralis as a way to do something about the high prices of medicines. He stood at the basis of our success in which formula magistralis of overpriced medicines is now regulated in Dutch patent legislation. ‘Affordable drugs’ was one of his important topics and he was always looking for cooperation with our patient advocacy group. ‘Only together we can take care of affordable prices and give all patients access to medicines!’ Of course, that was the end goal: ‘Access for all’. 

Ton was a doctor that operated with autonomy. A way of working that you almost don’t see anymore, but what is of great importance for patients when they have heard the news that nothing else can help them anymore. Ton never stopped thinking in a creative way and tried to figure out an alternative way of treating a patient. This way he saved many lives or at least prolonged the life of many patients. Always thinking from the patient’s perspective: ‘Quality of live’. 

My personal experience with Ton is one of great thankfulness and deep respect. My physician never allowed another physician taking care of me, but she made an exception with Ton. When in June 2008 I had my first StemCell transplant I was suffering from a bad infection and my temperature was way above 40 degrees. I was in great danger. Ton gave it a deep thought and changed the antibiotic. The next day I woke up with lower temperature, felt much better and was out of the danger zone. I owe my life to this beautiful man. 

Of course, many, many people will miss Ton. And Inspire2Live will miss a fellow advocate. Always side by side, always with a lot of support for us and always critical in what we thought, spoke about and did. He was our biggest supporter. Ton will always be on our mind and when thinking of him in the heat of the advocacy moment, we will ask ourselves: ‘How would Ton act?’ 

Dear Ton, dear friend and dear patients doctor, we will miss you, for always in our hearts. 

 Peter Kapitein
On behalf of the patient advocates of Inspire2Live.