December 3, 2022

Belgium rebuked over euthanasia management by European Court of Human Rights

After ten years in the courts, a Belgian man grieving over his deceased mother has lost a battle against his country’s euthanasia regime.

Godelieva de Troyer was 64 years old when she died in 2012. She had chronic depression and asked oncologist Wim Distelmans for euthanasia. Distelmans is a Belgium’s best-known euthanasia activist, one of the doctors who does the most cases, and the co-chair of the euthanasia commission.

Her son, Tom Mortier, protested and launched a series of lawsuits which ended in the European Court of Human Rights. On October 4, the court handed down its decision. It supported Belgium’s euthanasia law but found that its control system did not guarantee independence.

ADF International, a US-based legal team which handles human rights cases, was backing Mr Mortier. It commented that:

“Belgium failed to conduct proper investigation into circumstances of the 2012 euthanasia of Godelieva de Troyer. While judgment dismissed challenge to Belgium’s euthanasia legal framework, the facts of the case send clear warning about the dangers of euthanasia and the fiction of legal ‘safeguards’.”

The conflict of interest inherent in Belgium’s legal framework for euthanasia has often been commented on, but there seems to be little interest in changing it. “Despite Belgium euthanizing an average of seven people per day, the Commission has only ever referred one case for further investigation,” ADF International commented.

“This marks the close of this terrible chapter,” said Mr Mortier, “and while nothing can alleviate the pain of losing my mother, my hope is that the ruling from the Court that there was indeed a violation of the right to life puts the world on notice as to the immense harm euthanasia inflicts on not just people in vulnerable situations contemplating ending their lives, but also their families, and ultimately society”.