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Challenging Euthanasia Laws in Belgium


Topic | Right to Life

Tom Mortier hadn’t given much thought to Belgium’s liberal euthanasia laws. He didn’t think they affected him. Tom is a university professor in Belgium, where he has lectured since 2006. For Tom, it seemed that if a person wanted to die, who are we to stop him? Why can’t that person simply make that choice? Besides, it doesn’t affect anyone else.

Tom’s perspective changed forever one day when his wife received a phone call. The caller was from a hospital, letting her know that they needed to take care of Tom’s mother’s affairs since she had been euthanized.

Tom Mortier

European Court of Human Rights

Advocacy Team:
Robert Clarke

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"The big problem in our society is that apparently we have lost the meaning of taking care of each other." 

Case Summary

“My mother had severe mental health issues. She had to cope with depression throughout her life. She was treated for years by psychiatrists and eventually the contact between us was broken. A year later she received a lethal injection. Neither the oncologist who administered the injection nor the hospital had informed me or my sibling that our mother was even considering euthanasia. I found out a day later when my wife was contacted by the hospital, asking us to take care of the practicalities,” explained Tom.

Belgian law specifies that the person must be in a ‘medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.’ Tom’s mother was physically healthy, and her treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years had expressed doubts that she satisfied the legal requirements under Belgian law. Nonetheless, she was euthanized in 2012 by an oncologist with no known psychiatric qualifications.

The same doctor who euthanized Tom’s mother co-chairs the Federal Commission which reviews euthanasia cases to ensure the law has been respected. He also leads a pro-euthanasia organization which received a payment from Tom Mortier’s mother in the weeks preceding her death. Despite all this, according to the Belgian government, the Federal Commission voted “unanimously” to approve the euthanasia in this case.

ADF International is supporting Tom’s case at the European Court of Human Rights. The outcome will have the potential to set a precedent for euthanasia laws across Europe, affecting more than 820 million Europeans. 

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