Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Belgium - Policy Statement on Euthanasia - Physicians must refer.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

My previous blog entry is about the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario draft policy: "Physicians and the Human Rights Code."

In case you weren't aware, Belgium physicians were mandated to refer their patients for euthanasia on December 4, 2003.

The policy statement on End of Life Decisions and Euthanasia is translated as follows:

1. Terminal care and all the medical decisions associated with it are part of the duties of a general practitioner. 
2. Euthanasia is one of the possible choices in terminal care and must be framed by and embedded in total palliative care that transcends individual care. 
3. The health care districts must organise multidisciplinary follow-up training and instruction in terminal care. We commit ourselves to supervising this scientifically and didactically in collaboration with the Federation for Palliative Care Flanders (Federatie Palliatieve Zorg Vlaanderen) and the End-of-life Information Forum (LEIF) physician's forum. Our aim in this is to avoid the emergence of polarising groups with their own instructional training and interpretations. 
4. We oppose the establishment of euthanasia teams or euthanasia centres. Physicians must be supported and supervised, and strategies must be developed when, for practical or ethical reasons, the physician cannot comply with a request for euthanasia from their patient. 
5. All physicians involved, including those providing a second-opinion, must have extensive expertise in the area of palliative total care within the framework of euthanasia decision-making. 
6. Each physician has the right to deem euthanasia or another end-of-life decision as being in contravention of his or her personal beliefs. The physician is then obliged to inform his or her patient of this clearly and in good time and to organise a smooth referral.
Link to the original document in Flemish:

Information about the Belgium policy statement was sent to me by the Protection of Conscience Project: 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the text that I read above, it seems to protect the Medical Doctors from performing the "Euthanasia" if they deem unethical.

However, there seems to be no explicit rules concerning the patient, in-so-far as making the decision for euthanasia.

My concern would be the patients rights would be violated in some cases such as those with "mental issues", Alzheimer's and such, or those unable to speak for themselves or to be "coerced" into
making this decision, for whatever the multitude of reasons could be.

In addition, once this is a "mandated" practice, who is to stop the government from enforcing "Euthanasia" on sick and dying people? As I understand, this has been a problem in some countries in the past.

I would be more inclined to agree with the idea of "family assisted suicide", IF it is a decision that means the patient would be in cruel AND dibilitating pain unless and until death.

In either situation, there is a fine line between patients rights and the right to die, (which I do support - to a degree), and MANDATED Euthanasia.

Your Opinion???