February 29, 2024

Half of Belgian euthanasia deaths are involuntary

It’s OK. No change since legalisation
Some rather baffling news about euthanasia
comes from Belgium – where euthanasia has been legal since 2002 — in two
articles in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The articles themselves
are not yet available, but the press releases are disturbing. From two studies
based on anonymous questionnaires, the following information was gleaned:

About one death in 25 in
Belgium is euthanasia.

2% of all deaths occur after an
explicit request to a physician. However, 1.8% — almost the same number –
occur without a request.

The authors of the study do not
find this alarming because the proportion of non-voluntary euthanasia is the
same as before euthanasia was legalised. In other words, a lot of illegal non-voluntary
euthanasia – murder — was happening before the law was passed.

Clear guidelines exist for
voluntary euthanasia in Belgium. It must be carried out by a physician. However,
12% of the time it was done – illegally – by nurses.

(5)    Despite the lack of explicit patient request,
the use of life-ending drugs was in most cases discussed with patients’
families and health professional colleagues. “The use of life-ending drugs
without explicit patient request occurs predominantly in hospital and among
elderly patients who are mostly in an irreversible coma or demented,”
write Dr. Kenneth Chambaere, Vrije Universiteit, Brussel, and his co-authors.

The information
in English is fragmentary. A news report in March said that in 2009 700 official cases of euthanasia were
reported, up 40% on 2008. “Experts point out these are only official statistics
[sic], and estimate that these only represent 25% of the actual numbers,” said FlandersNews. ~ Eureka Alert, May 17; Eureka Alert, May 17

Michael Cook