April 16, 2024

Supervision of euthanasia breaking down in Belgium

The theme of control is at the heart of debates about assisted suicide and euthanasia. For the patients, it’s control of their own lives. For legislatures, it’s control of doctors who end lives. Wherever legalisation has failed, it is due to fears about whether people who have been authorised to kill without police supervision will be adequately monitored. Wherever it has succeeded, those fears have been allayed. 

At the moment euthanasia in Belgium, where it is legal, is not being adequately monitored even by the loose local standards. Its parliament has delegated oversight to a commission of 16 professionals who are supposed to review the file for each case of euthanasia. That system is breaking down. Members are resigning, perhaps because of the huge workload, and the vacancies have been mounting. Legally speaking, the commission has lost its mandate. 

But even though control has manifestly broken down, doctors continue to euthanise their patients at the rate of at least five a day. Is this the system that Belgians voted for in 2002?

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Michael Cook
The supervisory commission cannot find replacement members.