Belgium

Current law regarding euthanasia

2014 law

On February 13, 2014, Belgium legalized euthanasia by lethal injection for children.
By a vote of 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions, the lower house of Parliament approved the law which had previously been passed by the country’s Senate.  Young children will be allowed to end their lives with the help of a doctor in the world’s most radical extension of a euthanasia law.
Under the law there is no age limit to minors who can seek a lethal injection.
Parents must agree with the decision, however, there are serious questions about how much pressure will be placed on parents and/or their children.
In anticipation of the law’s passage, some Belgian parents, such as Professor Jutte van den Werff Ten Bosch, had already talked with a child, expressing support if the child should ever request euthanasia.  Others had questioned, “What would prompt a child to ask?”

2002 law

The Belgian act legalizing euthanasia for competent adults and emancipated minors was passed on May 28, 2002.  It went into effect on September 3, 2002.
Text of law

“Euthanasia in Belgium: 10 years on”
(European Institute of Bioethics — April 2012)
Already mobilized to justify euthanasia of new-born infants and young children, the state of necessity is also invoked to justify euthanasia of adult patients who are not conscious and who have not drawn up a prior declaration.

Articles

“Elderly couple to die together by assisted suicide even though they are not ill”
(Mail Online — September 25, 2014)
The pair from Brussels fear loneliness if the other one dies first. Identified only by their first names, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.

“Murderer in non-capital punishment Belgium granted request to die”
(Mail Online — September 15, 2014)
A Belgium murderer and rapist serving a life sentence is to be allowed to have doctors end his life following a ground-breaking ruling under laws in Belgium permitting people to request euthanasia.

“Outrage as ‘Dr. Death’ offers euthanasia tours of ‘inspiring’ Auschwitz”
(Mail Online — July 12, 2014)
Belgian doctor Wim Distelmans has organized a “study tour” to Auschwitz.  He claims the Nazi death camp is ‘inspiring’ and will help “clarify confusion.”

“Euthanasia surges in Belgium”
(Independent OnLine — May 29, 2014)
Doctors in Belgium are killing an average of five people every day by euthanasia, figures revealed on Wednesday.  The statistics also show a 27 percent surge in the number of euthanasia cases in the past year.

“Doctor plans ‘inspiring’ Auschwitz tour to talk about euthanasia”
(Jewish Chronicle — May 23, 2014)
Belgian doctor Wim Distelmans, an advocate of euthanasia has triggered controversy by planning a study trip to Auschwitz, which he describes as an “inspiring venue” in which to “clarify confusion” about mercy killing.
Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called Prof. Distelmans’s Auschwitz initiative “a travesty.”

“Why would a euthanasia practitioner tour Auschwitz?”
(Mercatornet — May 15, 2014)
The leading practitioner of euthanasia in Belgium, Dr. Wim Distelmans, is organizing an instructional tour to Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp. In a travel brochure he describes Auschwitz as an “inspiring” surrounding in which to “clarify confusion about euthanasia.”

“Are cracks appearing in Belgians’ attitude on euthanasia?”
(BioEdge — May 10, 2014)
A second official complaint has been filed against the chairman of the Belgium committee which regulates euthanasia for euthanasing a woman suffering from depression.

“Belgian intensive care doctors back involuntary euthanasia”
(BioEdge — April 11, 2014)
Involuntary euthanasia is acceptable medical treatment, according to a recent official statement by the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine.  The lead author of the policy said that doctors need to be able to give lethal injections to shorten lives which are no longer worth living, even if the patients have not given their consent.

“Official complaint lodged against leading Belgian euthanasia doctor”
(Bioedge — February 25, 2014)
The complaint is against Dr. Wim Distelmans in the death of Godelieve De Troyer.  DeTroyer made a donation of 2,500 Euros to Distelmans’ right-to-die association, LEIF, two months before she died.  Distelmans administers euthanasia to many patients, but he is also the head of the commission which investigates failure to observe the euthanasia law.

“Belgium to vote on child euthanasia Feb 13″
(Agence France-Press — February 6, 2014)
Belgian lawmakers will vote on whether to extend the right to euthanasia to terminally-ill children next week, parliament announced on Thursday, with the measure expected to be approved.
Belgium recorded a record 1,432 cases of euthanasia in 2012, up 25 percent.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe oppose Belgium’s move toward permitting euthanasia for children.
(January 30, 2014)
The written declaration states, in part, that the “vote in the Belgium Senate betrays some of the most vulnerable children in Belgium by accepting that their lives may no longer have any inherent value or worth and that they should die.”

“Pro-death Insanity Envelops Belgium”
(American Thinker — January 22, 2014)
Even within the European pro-death context, Belgium has gone stark raving mad….Unsurprisingly, euthanasia deaths skyrocketed by more than 500% between 2002 and 2013 — often ignoring the state’s “safeguards.” For example, a 2010 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that 32% of euthanasia deaths in one area of Belgium were carried out without the patient ever having requested it.

“Belgian rapist’s plea for euthanasia stirs debates on mental health and right to die”
(Globe and Mail — January 1, 2014)
[I]t is also of interest for Canada, where the corrections system struggles similarly with how to best deal with mentally ill inmates.  What’s more, Quebec’s legislature is currently debating a right-to-die bill modeled after the Belgian and Dutch voluntary euthanasia laws.

“Insane Conversations — talking to children about euthanasia”
(Paul Russell — December 23, 2013)
What would prompt a child to ask?
Think about why it would be that the specialist medical practitioner or the parents would come to a point where whey thought it was necessary to tell the child (or remind the child) about euthanasia as an option.

“Belgium’s Senate approves highly controversial bill that would make euthanasia legal for dying children”
(National Post — December 12, 2013)
The measure, which passed the country’s Senate by a 50-17 vote has yet to be approved by the Lower House.
Note: Currently, Belgium permits euthanasia by lethal injection but does not permit doctor-prescribed suicide.

Opinion: Belgium’s experience with euthanasia teaches bitter lessons”
(Montreal Gazette — December 5, 2013)
In 2002, when euthanasia was legalized, it was said that it would only be performed in very rare circumstances…However, 10 years and 8,000 deaths later, these rules are being ignored and euthanasia is out of control….In fact, Distelmans gave my own mother a lethal injection on April 19, 2012 — because she had chronic depression.

“Should a Sick Child Be Allowed to Choose Death? Belgians Think So”
(Newsweek — December 5, 2013)
Professor Jutte van den Werff Ten Bosch has already had the talk with her 10-year-old son. Several times, in fact. No, not the sex talk. The euthanasia talk.
“Even if he said, ‘I want to die,’ I’d support him.”
The child euthanasia bill stipulates that doctors can suggest to terminally ill minors that they should be euthanized.

“Belgium moves closer to granting euthanasia for terminally-ill children”
(RTE News — November 27, 2013)
A parliamentary committee has voted the law through by a large majority… The law removes any reference in the law to the age of the child…Analysts expect the full parliament to pass the law as the committee represents the proportion of seats in the chamber.

“Why two best friends, 40, with non-life threatening diseases want to take their own lives after being inspired by euthanasia talk.”
(Mail Online — November 25, 2013)
This pair were inspired by Belgian doctor and right-to-die activist Wim Distelmans….They see an early death as the “light at the end of the tunnel” even though it will mean Miss Liekens makes an orphan of her son, 17.

“Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will”
(National Post — November 22, 2013)
Wim Distelmans is unusual among physicians: when one of his patients dies, it means his treatment was a success…In an interview at a clinic he runs in the Brussels suburb of Wemmel, Dr. Distelmans defended his actions and argued that Belgian euthanasia law — which some argue has opened the door to abuses — should be expanded to cover children and people suffering from dementia.
Dr. Distelmans is co-chairman of the federal commission charged with reviewing — after the fact– whether euthanasia cases performed in Belgium adhered to the legal criteria.

“Row over euthanasia for minors intensifies in Belgium”
Global Post — November 6, 2013)
Proposed legislation would allow the euthanasia of minors so long as they are judged capable of deciding for themselves. Sixteen pediatricians called on lawmakers to vote for the practice.
“Why deprive minors of this last possibility,”…”Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than health people.”

“Belgium Leaps Off Euthanasia Moral Cliff”
(National Review Online — October 31, 2013)
Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over age 18, is now considering extending it to children.Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatric oncologist at a Brussels hospital, says the changes would legalize what is already happening informally.

“Belgium’s new death row”
(BioEdge — October 19, 2013)
In theory Belgian law permits prisoner euthanasia, as the nation’s 1,000 inmates have the same health rights as free citizens.  But the request raises difficult questions. If they are euthanased because they are experiencing unbearable suffering, how much of that is due to the prison environment?

“Paying the price for their autonomy”
(Mercatornet — October 5, 2013)
The latest euthanasia scandal in Belgium shows that some doctors have discovered an easy way to dispose of some of their medical failures. They can kill them. Legally.

“‘Painless death’ or ‘precipitous cliff’? Transsexual chooses euthanasia after failed operation”
(NBC News — October 7, 2013)
A high profile case of a Belgian transsexual who chose to be killed by medical euthanasia after a sex-change operation has raised fresh questions over the controversial practice.
“Protecting the barriers between care for someone and killing them is very important. And if suicide is offered to vulnerable people, like in this case, it puts them at tremendous risk.”

“Belgian killed by euthanasia after a botched sex change operation”
(Telegraph — October 1, 2013)
Nathan, born Nancy, Verhelst, 44, was given legal euthanasia, most likely by lethal injection, on the grounds of “unbearable psychological suffering” on Monday morning.
Wim Distelmans, a cancer specialist who carried out the euthanasia, is the same doctor who late last year gave lethal injections to congenitally deaf twins who were frightened they were also going blind.

“Euthanased patients a new source of organ donations in Belgium”
(BioEdge — September 7, 2013)
With a shortage of organ donors in Europe, Belgium doctors have a novel solution: patients with unbearable suffering donate their organs after voluntary euthanasia…Euthanasia donors accounted for 12.8% of lung donors — one half had severe muscular disease and one half were mentally ill.
Abstract of “Lung Transplantation with Grafts Recovered from Euthanasia Donors” from Report of 21st Conference for Thoractic Surgery — describes organ donation after euthanasia.

“Leopold Dauwe and Paula Raman, Belgian Elderly Couple, Euthanized Together”
(Huffington Post — June 26, 2013)
A Belgian couple that had spent the past 70 years together decided to end their lives the same way.  They were euthanized, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

“First-world problem 2: I’m really not into the whole ‘turbo-euthanasia’ thing”
(BioEdge — June 27, 2013)
Dr. Sarah Van Laer, who has euthanased 28 patients since legalisation in 2002, has complained bitterly to the Belgian newspaper, De Standaard, about the burdens of her work.

“First-world problem 1: Belgium euthanasia doctors underpaid”
(BioEdge — June 27, 2013)
The Belgian parliament is currently debating whether or not to give children the right to euthanasia. But several other issues have surfaced as well, amongst them a complaint about how much euthanasia doctors are paid.

“Leopold Dauwe and Paula Raman, Belgian Elderly Couple, Euthanized Together”
(Huffington Post — June 26, 2013)
According to AFT, there were 1,432 cases of euthanasia in Belgium in 2012, representing 2 percent of all deaths in the country.

“Two frameworks for Belgian euthanasia”
(Bioedge — June 15, 2013)
Belgium goes even further in permissive euthanasia for children and non-terminally ill adults while Dutch doctors are now allowed to take into consideration the suffering of parents when deciding whether or not to give a child a lethal injection.

“For Belgium’s tormented Souls, Euthanasia-Made-Easy Beckons”
(Wall Street Journal — June 14, 2013)
Extensive article about euthanasia and assisted suicide in Belgium, United States and the Netherlands.
If euthanasia is a good “medical treatment” to end suffering, why deny it to a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old?

“Belgium: ‘Another step towards euthanasia for children’”
(Press Europe — June 10, 2013)
In the wake of several months of testimony from doctors and experts in medical ethics, a Belgian Senate committee will, on June 12, examine the possible extension of the country’s euthanasia law to include children.

“How legal euthanasia changed Belgium forever”
(Mercator net — May 17, 2013)
Euthanasia is being promoted as a “beautiful” and positive way to die.  Doctors are transplanting organs from patients who die in the operation. (This is said to make their lives meaningful. The law may soon allow children and patients with dementia to be euthanased.

“Belgian euthanasia not such a big deal”
(BioEdge — February 22, 2013
But trivialization must be well and truly underway when euthanasia becomes the subject of TV chat shows….Dr. Distelmans, the doctor who euthanased the Belgium twins said that Marc and Eddy Verbessem were Catholics and received the last sacraments of their church before he administered the lethal dose.

“Another speed bump for Belgian euthanasia”
(BioEdge — February 10, 2013)
The complications of euthanasia keep bubbling away in Belgium.  The latest scandal is the euthanasia of a 44-year-old woman because of unbearable mental suffering from anorexia nervosa. Only a handful of these women ask for euthanasia each year and they normally have other psychiatric issues as well.

“Belgian Anorexia Euthanasia
(National Review — February 10, 2012)
Belgium is a vivid demonstration of the abandonment and darkness that euthanasia can’t help but eventually become.  Now, only weeks after learning that twin disabled men were euthanized, we find out a young woman with the mental illness of anorexia nervosa has been killed by her psychiatrist — after being sexually abused by another psychiatrist.

“How my mother died”
(MercatorNet — February 4, 2013)
A mentally-ill Belgian woman sought euthanasia to escape her problems. The doctors told her, sure, why not?

“Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and Assisted Suicide”
(American Spectator — January 17, 2013)
What advice would the young Helen Keller receive if she were alive today?
Helen Keller became both blind and deaf after an illness when she was 19 months. She was taught to communicate at age 7, and she went on, during a long life of 88 years, to contribute to our lives.  Apparently no one told the story of Helen Keller to the identical Belgian twin men, age 45, cobblers both, who sought and obtained assisted suicide in Belgium in December.

“Depression = suffering, reason for lethal injection”
(One News Now — January, 17, 2013)
Though euthanasia of twin brothers in Belgium has made headlines, the real story may be how the incident has been trivialized….Belgim is looking to expand its program so that minors will be allowed to commit suicide with medical assistance.

“National Federation of the Blind Comments on Belgian Euthanasia of Deaf Men Losing Sight”
(NFB — January 15, 2013)
“This disturbing news from Belgium is a stark example of the common, and in this case tragic, misunderstanding of disability and its consequences. Adjustment to any disability is difficult, and deaf-blind people face their own particular challenges but from at least the time of Helen Keller it has been known that these challenges can be met….”

“Belgian identical twins in unique mercy killing”
(Telegraph — United Kingdom — January 13, 2013)
Identical twins, 45, who were facing blindness, were euthanized by Belgian doctors last month in a unique mercy killing under Belgium’s euthanasia laws.  Doctors at Brusssels University Hospital in Jette euthanized the two men by lethal injection.

“Euthanasia ‘trivialized’ in Belgium: report by bioethics institute”
(BioEdge — December 9, 2012)
The central theme of the report is the ineffectiveness and bias of the body established by the legislation to allay the misgivings of the public by monitoring and controlling euthanasia.  After 10 years and about 5,500 cases, not one case has ever been referred to the police. It is illusory, says the IEB, to expect doctors to denounce their own failings.

“Belgium pioneers organ donation from euthanased patients”
(Bioedge — October 5, 2012)
The practice of transplanting organs from patients who die after voluntary euthanasia is becoming relatively common in Belgium. According to the website De Redactie, run by the Flemish public broadcasting company, VRT, Belgium is the world leader in organ removal after euthanasia.

“Belgian euthanasia law allows first death of a prisoner”
(Medical Xpress — September 13, 2012)
A gravely ill prisoner serving a long jail sentence has become the first inmate to die under Belgian euthanasia laws…Last year, some 1,133 cases — mostly for terminal cancer — were recorded, about one percent of all deaths in the country, according to official figures.