Monday, September 15, 2014

Belgium Euthanasia and Capital Punishment.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last January, Frank van den Bleeken, who was convicted of rape and murder in Belgium, requested death by lethal injection (euthanasia) for reasons of psychological suffering.

On Saturday, a Belgian news agency reported that van den Bleeken euthanasia request was recently approved. van den Bleeken is the first Belgian prisoner, who is not terminally ill, to approved to die by euthanasia. The Belgian news article reported that another Belgian prisoner, who has currently served 27 years for murdering 2 people, has also asked to die by lethal injection (euthanasia).

Reuters reported that van den Bleeken requested euthanasia for psychological suffering because: 
"he had no prospect of release since he could not overcome his violent sexual impulses and so he wanted to exercise his right to medically assisted suicide in order to end years of mental anguish."
The van den Bleeken euthanasia death is complicated by the fact that he was living in an aging psychiatric hospital and he had challenged the Belgian penal system for its overcrowding and unacceptable living conditions. The January 2014 article stated:
In January, the court ruled in favour of three Belgian inmates and ordered damages be paid, citing a “structural shortcoming” that resulted in about 1,000 prisoners with mental problems being held in aging, overcrowded, inadequately staffed special prison wings.
... Mr. van den Bleeken and Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom are now locked in a court fight over the issue. 
Mr. van den Bleeken’s still unresolved case is the latest controversial example of applicants who are not terminally ill but suffer psychological pains.
The expansion of euthanasia to include prisoners with psychological suffering represents the latest expansions of the Belgian euthanasia law.

Belgium Euthanasia - A story of incremental extensions.

In May, a Belgian nurse wrote an article about her experience with euthanasia. She explained how euthanasia was being done in very questionable circumstances and how it has become unacceptable to challenge a decision to kill a patient.

A study that was published by the (BMJ Oct 2010) concluded that assisted deaths were significantly under-reported in the Flemish region of Belgium. The study found that only 52.8% of assisted deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were reported.

A study that was published by the (CMAJ June, 2010) found that 32% of all assisted deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were done without explicit request. A similar study that was published by the (CMAJ June, 2010) found that 45% of assisted deaths by nurses in Belgium were done without explicit request.

The study found that the demographic group that was most likely to die by an assisted death without request tended to be over the age of 80, incapable of consenting, had an unpredictable end-of-life trajectory and died in the hospital. The study concluded in their findings that this:

"fits the description of a vulnerable patient group at risk of life-ending without request."
Many euthanasia advocates claim that the Belgian euthanasia law has effective safeguards and yet the data indicates that many euthanasia deaths are not requested and not reported.

The number of people who are dying by euthanasia for psychological reasons is expanding.
How is it possible that people can be euthanised in Belgium without close family or friends being contacted? Why does my country give medical doctors the exclusive power to decide over life and death? ... What are the criteria to decide what “unbearable suffering” is? Can we rely on such a judgment for a mentally ill person? 
The Growth of Euthanasia in Belgium.

The 2013 Belgian euthanasia report states that the number of reported assisted deaths increased by more than 26% to 1807 deaths in 2013. This was up from 1432 euthanasia deaths in 2012 and 1133 in 2011. The Belgian statistics do not include the unreported deaths.

The Belgian euthanasia law has been expanded by changing the law and changing the interpretation of the law, to include new reasons for killing proving that a slippery slope has happened. 

Incremental extensions have occurred to the Belgian euthanasia law by expanding the definition of psychological suffering, expanding euthanasia to include depressed people with questionable consent and expanding euthanasia to include children. All this has occurred while the Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission and the government has turned a blind eye to abuses of the law.

Euthanasia is done by lethally injecting a person. People in Belgium are dying by euthanasia without request, without it being reported and it includes people with depression and children.

The Belgian experience with euthanasia should convince people to prohibit euthanasia. Sadly, those who support euthanasia ignore and cover-up the truth rather than recognize that legalizing euthanasia is a dangerous public policy.

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