BRUSSELS – Euthanasia cases hit a record high in 2015. Never before have more people died at the hands of doctors in Belgium. According to the bi-annual report published last week by the Euthanasia Control Commission, there were 2022 intentional killings last year. Since its legalization in 2002, 12,762 people have officially been euthanized.
“The seventh report on euthanasia in Belgium shows that once we open the doors to intentional killing, there is no logical stopping point. While there were 24 euthanasia cases in 2002, this number has now increased almost a hundredfold. The slippery slope that Belgium embarked on in 2002 is becoming more and more visible. Today, euthanasia for a person who is perfectly healthy in a physical sense, but suffers from psychological illnesses, is accepted in Belgium,” said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy for ADF International.
Terminal illness no requirement for euthanasia
While cancer is the most common stated reason for euthanasia requests in 2015, 15 per cent of cases concerned non-terminal illnesses. Among these, the report also lists loss of eye sight and hearing, limitations of movement, or heart problems. There was also a notable increase in dementia related cases. Around one tenth of patients who asked for euthanasia experienced “multiple sufferings” (9,7 per cent). Another frequently mentioned reason was a disease of the nervous system, accounting for 6,9 per cent of cases.
In general, the law requires the suffering to be “unbearable” to qualify for euthanasia. The Commission has underlined that the definition of “unbearable” is highly subjective and that every patient has the right to refuse pain treatment or palliative care.
“Modern palliative care can effectively treat most physical pain. It allows people to live their final moments in true dignity. While Belgium initially claimed to legalize euthanasia in order to prevent people from unnecessary suffering, now it also allows the killing of those who are physically healthy. We will be judged as a society by how we care for our most vulnerable. We have much better to offer the elderly and the sick than euthanasia, which can place a tremendous implicit, or even explicit, pressure on those people,” said Robert Clarke, Legal Counsel and Director for European Advocacy for ADF International.