Belgium has been challenged on the human rights implications of its euthanasia law at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland this week. Undergoing a “Universal Periodic Review”, during which states are scrutinized on their human rights record and called to consider reforms, various states urged the government to improve treatment of the elderly and of persons with disabilities.
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.
“My mother had a severe mental problem. 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 any of my siblings that our mother was even considering euthanasia. I found out a day later when I was contacted by the hospital, asking me 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 did not believe that she satisfied the legal requirements of the Belgian euthanasia 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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Related News and Updates
On Friday, ADF International submitted what could be the final legal arguments on behalf of Tom Mortier in his case against Belgium at the European Court of Human Rights. The case is Mr Mortier’s last chance to seek justice for the loss of his mother who was euthanized by lethal injection in 2012.
The European Court of Human Rights agreed to consider the case of Tom Mortier. Belgian authorities have refused to pursue Mr Mortier’s case meaning the Court is now his only chance to seek justice for the loss of his mother.
The case against a doctor who killed a woman for being depressed and then didn’t have anyone inform her son until the next day is headed back to a Belgian criminal court.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights Wednesday on behalf of Tom Mortier, who is challenging Belgium’s laws that allow doctor-prescribed death.