Friday, January 2, 2015

Depressed mother died by euthanasia in Belgium. Mortier challenges the law.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Mortier's mother died by euthanasia in Belgium
Tom Mortier, a chemistry professor, who lost his depressed mother, Godelieva De Troyer, to euthanasia in April 2012, has challenged the Belgian euthanasia law and the doctor who lethally injected his mother by launching a legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights

An article written by Kelsey Harkness and published in the Daily Signal concerns Mortier's case.

Harkness defines the Belgian euthanasia experience by explaining how it has expanded over time. She writes:

Although euthanasia laws originally were designed with terminally ill patients in mind, they have evolved to include persons with mental illness or physical disabilities, those who didn’t or couldn’t consent, and even children. 
In Belgium, where it is now legal for terminally ill children who are in great pain and have parental consent to end their lives, euthanasia results in about one in every 50 deaths.
The article describes Mortier's experience with the euthanasia death of his mother by stating:
Some, such as Tom Mortier, a 38-year-old chemistry professor at Leuven University College in Flanders, say his country has gone too far. 
On April 19, 2012, Mortier’s mother was put to death at age 65 for what doctors called “untreatable depression.” He is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights over the conditions of her death. 
Mortier didn’t find out his mother, Godelieva De Troyer, had been euthanized until he received a phone call the next day asking him to retrieve her body from the morgue. 
“I was completely shocked and traumatized,” Mortier says in an email interview with The Daily Signal.
Godelieva De Troyer
Mortier explains that his mother was living with chronic depression, but her request for euthanasia was based on a relationship break-up.

After her last relationship ended, she broke off contact with me and my children because she was worried that I was the same as my father who committed suicide when I was 5 years old.
Mortier only found out about his mother's euthanasia death, after she died. The doctor who lethally injected De Troyer, Wim Distelmans, is an oncologist who specializes in tumors. The article states:
Mortier says neither Distelmans nor a psychiatrist he consulted to approve the life-ending procedure (also a close friend of Distelmans’) had a previous involvement with his mother’s health. 
In fact, De Troyer’s treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years refused to help her die, maintaining that she did not satisfy the requirements of Belgium law. 
At first Distelmans agreed, and he too declined to help De Troyer end her life.
But after she made a donation of 2,500 euro to Life End Information Forum, an organization he co-founded, Distelmans carried out De Troyer’s request.
Mortier explains that Distelmans, who is also in charge of the government commission that overseas compliance with the euthanasia law, has also received donations from other people before lethally injecting them. Mortier states that Distelmans has a "clear conflict of interest."

After exhausting all options in Belgium, Mortier decided to launch a case at the European Court of Human Rights. His case argues that:
“the balance has shifted unacceptably in favor of personal autonomy at the expense of the important public interest and a state’s obligation under Article 2 [the right to life].”
Mortier says that:
I don’t agree that an oncologist with no expertise in treating complex mental health issues can kill a physically healthy woman, without contacting her children, on the basis of the advice of one psychiatrist who is a close colleague.
Mortier lawyer sees the case in a more universal manner.
When even the co-chair [Distelmans] of the body responsible for ensuring compliance with those rules is not following them himself, we start to see the true scale of the problems that come with offering death as an alternative to proper care and treatment. 
The facts of this case, and the requirements of the law in Belgium, are so far apart that it demonstrates that if you legalize euthanasia, you cannot control it. This is a slippery slope and it led to Belgium making euthanasia available to children, with no lower age limit, earlier this year.
Mortier's lawyer concludes the article by stating.
Why is it when someone is climbing over the edge of a bridge people stop in their cars to try and talk them down, and the authorities set up an inflatable below to try to save them, but when someone in Belgium announces to their doctor that they want to die, the government looks at ways to make it possible?
Canadians must also be made aware that the Quebec euthanasia law that may come into effect in December 2015 is based on the Belgian euthanasia law.

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