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‘Resistance fighters’ against Belgian euthanasia publish anthology of behind-the-scenes observations

by | May 20, 2021

By Michael Cook

This book would be a bargain at any price, but it is free to download from the website of Springer, the publisher of many medical journals: Euthanasia: Searching for the Full Story: Experiences and Insights of Belgian Doctors and Nurses.

Euthanasia, though legal in Belgium, is opposed by some healthcare professionals. This collection of essays contains insights and thought-provoking stories from the authors’ professional experience. As the author of one of the book’s forwards puts it:

The testimonies reported in this book are forward-thinking and prophetic: they are the words of “Resistance fighters” and watchers who do not believe that euthanasia can be a medical or a caring act, neither can it be a neutral option. As I said before, euthanasia does not complement palliative care, it ends it; it is not the pinnacle of care and support for the patient, it discontinues it; it does not relieve the patients, it takes their lives.

This open access book has been written by ten Belgian health care professionals, nurses, university professors and doctors specializing in palliative care and ethicists who fear that euthanasia has become normalised and trivial.

Far from being polemical, these stories of life and death present another side to the narrative of patient autonomy. As Margaret Somerville, an Australian bioethicist and Wes Ely, an American critical care specialist, observe in their forward, there is a dearth of literature about the societal ramifications of legalising euthanasia. They write that: “The case against euthanasia is much more difficult to promote, not because it is weak—it is not—but because it is much more complex. This case requires looking not just to the present but also to our ‘collective human memory’—that is, history—for lessons from the past and to our ‘collective human imagination’ to try to anticipate the full and wider consequences of legalizing euthanasia.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge.

Categories: Euthanasia