“Unbearable suffering” questioned in documentary on Belgian euthanasia
85-year-old woman euthanised for grief before the camera.
This documentary from the Australian SBS network is one of the best on Belgian euthanasia that I have seen. Although short on statistics and background, it gives an insight into its disturbing ethical dilemmas. Journalist Brett Mason interviews two patients about their request for euthanasia and asks a number of doctors and public figures whether the increasing number of cases for unbearable suffering can be justified.
Peter Ketelslegers is a 33-year-old father of two who suffers from cluster headaches. This condition – according to Belgian doctors – is untreatable. The pain is so intense that he can no longer work. He feels that he should die so that he won’t be a burden to his boys and his wife.
Simona de Moor is 85, physically fit and mentally sharp. But five minutes after her beloved daughter died, she decided on euthanasia. Mason films her “mundane and unremarkable” last moments as she drinks a lethal potion brought by her doctor, Marc Van Hoey. A dark family problem overshadows her life; she has another daughter from whom she has been estranged for decades and whom she will not inform about her death.
Dr Van Hoey is an old hand at euthanasia. How many has he killed, Mason asks. “To be frank, I don’t know, maybe hundreds, or over a hundred,” he replies. “A lot of elderly people are not really suffering in the narrow meaning of the word, but one plus one plus one plus one makes a whole,” he says. “That in addition to their age gives them no future, there is nothing left any more, and so quite often they say, I’ve had it with my life.”
The documentary touches upon some of the major questions including whether unbearable suffering should qualify people for euthanasia, whether doctors who perform euthanasia should also regulate it; and why no one has ever been investigated for abusing the legislation.
Well worth watching.
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