NRL News

Belgian doctors are killing patients by euthanasia without request

by | Jun 16, 2015

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

The Journal of Medical Ethics recently published a research article that is written by Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a human rights activist and Chair of the Politics department at the University of Hull.

The article, “First do no harm intentional shortening lives of patients without their explicit request in Belgium,” focuses on published data concerning the practice of causing death without patient request in Belgium It also focuses on the policy of the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine Council concerning the administration of sedative agents with the direct intention of shortening life.

Cohen-Almagor examines the Belgian research from the years 1998, 2001, 2007, and 2013. Whereas a basic examination of the research would suggest that the percentage of hastened deaths without explicit request has lowered, the reality indicates that the practice remains common resulting in over 1000 hastened deaths without request each year.

For instance, in 1998, four years before euthanasia was legalized in Belgium, research indicates that 3.2% of all deaths were hastened without request while a similar studies in 2007 found that 1.8% of all deaths. In 2013 – 1.7% of all deaths were hastened without explicit.

In December 2012 I published my book, “Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide,” that examined much of this data, even though Cohen-Almagor also examines newer data.

A review of the research by Steve Dougherty of the Daily Mail UK reported that:

Thousands of elderly people have been killed by their own GPs without ever asking to die under Belgium’s euthanasia laws, an academic report said yesterday.

It said that around one in every 60 deaths of a patient under GP care involves someone who has not requested euthanasia.

Half of the patients killed without giving their consent were over the age of 80, the study found, and two thirds of them were in hospital and were not suffering from a terminal disease such as cancer.

In about four out of five of the cases, the death was not discussed with patients subjected to ‘involuntary euthanasia’ because they were either in a coma, they were diagnosed with dementia, or because doctors decided it would not be in their best interests to discuss the matter with them.

Very often doctors would not inform the families of plans to lethally inject a relation because they considered it a medical decision to be made by themselves alone, the report published by the Journal of Medical Ethics said.

The Daily Mail article continued:

Report author Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor of Hull University said: ‘The decision as to which life is no longer worth living is not in the hands of the patient but in the hands of the doctor.’

‘It should also be noted that deliberately ending the lives of patients without their request is taking place in Belgium more than in all other countries that document such practices, including the Netherlands.

‘It is worrying that some physicians take upon themselves the responsibility to deliberately shorten patients’ lives without a clear indication from the patients that this is what they would want.’

The data also indicates that deaths that were hastened without request were rarely reported even though reporting is a requirement of the Belgian euthanasia law. …

Similar research from the Netherlands indicates that there is a lesser, but equally concerning problem with deaths of people without explicit request in that country.

When accessing the data from several sources, Cohen-Almagor clearly shows that Belgium euthanasia is not limited to people who request it, and it is not limited to people who are competent.

The concept of euthanasia based on “choice” is an illusion.

Legalizing euthanasia is bad public policy and it is not safe.

Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Categories: Euthanasia