NRL News

Belgian euthanasia dispute erupts over the killing of a person with severe dementia

by | Feb 21, 2018

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr. Ludo Vanopdenbosch

A dispute has erupted in Belgium after a person with dementia was killed by euthanasia even though the person did not request death by lethal injection and was incapable of consenting.

The division has grown since Dr Ludo Vanopdenbosch, a palliative care specialist, resigned from the Belgian euthanasia commission.

Maria Cheng wrote in an article published by the Associated Press []that Vanopdenbosch explained in his resignation letter that:

The most striking example took place at a meeting in early September, … when the group discussed the case of a patient with severe dementia, who also had Parkinson’s disease. To demonstrate the patient’s lack of competence, a video was played showing what Vanopdenbosch characterized as “a deeply demented patient.”

The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, was euthanized at the family’s request… There was no record of any prior request for euthanasia from the patient.

According to Cheng, the dispute questions whether the hastened death was euthanasia:

Some experts say the case as documented in the letter amounts to murder; the patient lacked the mental capacity to ask for euthanasia and the request for the bedridden patient to be killed came from family members. The co-chairs of the commission say the doctor mistakenly reported the death as euthanasia.

Believe it or not, Dr. An Haekens, psychiatric director at the Alexianen Psychiatric Hospital in Tienen said:

“It’s not euthanasia because the patient didn’t ask, so it’s the voluntary taking of a life,”

This appalling case of euthanasia without request is not the first. Cheng wrote:

The AP revealed a rift last year between Dr. Willem Distelmans, co-chair of the euthanasia commission, and Dr. Lieve Thienpont, an advocate of euthanasia for the mentally ill. Distelmans suggested some of Thienpont’s patients might have been killed without meeting all the legal requirements. Prompted by the AP’s reporting, more than 360 doctors, academics and others have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.

The euthanasia dispute among Belgian doctors is long overdue. A Belgium government sponsored study examining deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium (2013).

It concluded that 4.6% of all deaths were hastened without request–more than 1,000 people.

Recent reports indicate that palliative care professionals in Belgium have resigned due to pressure to participate in euthanasia.

Legalizing euthanasia gives physicians, the right in law, to end the lives of their patient.

The dispute relates to the fact that the Belgian euthanasia law gives doctors the power to decide, the power to act and the requirement to self-report their acts. The commission is only analyzing deaths that have already occurred.

By the way, the same system exists in Canada, the Netherlands, Oregon, Washington State, etc. All of these laws are designed to be abused.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Euthanasia