Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Belgium euthanasia (2020-21 report). 2700 euthanasia deaths in 2021. 27,726 euthanasia deaths since legalization.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The 2020-21 Belgium euthanasia report was recently released indicating that there were 2445 reported euthanasia deaths in 2020 and 2700 reported euthanasia deaths in 2021. From legalization in 2002 until the end of 2021, there has been 27,726 reported euthanasia deaths.

Thank you to the European Institute of Bioethics (EIB) for providing a summary of the report.

I refer to reported euthanasia deaths because there is a significant percentage of unreported euthanasia deaths in Belgium. The Belgian report acknowledges the problem by stating:
As in its previous reports, the Commission “does not have the possibility of evaluating the proportion of the number of euthanasia's declared in relation to the number of euthanasia's actually performed. In other words, these figures only reflect part of the reality of euthanasia in Belgium.
New categories of information in the report including that 31 of the euthanasia deaths were approved based on an advanced request, meaning these people were incompetent at the time of death and 172 died by euthanasia while in palliative care and 79 of the euthanasia deaths were foreign citizens.

The European Institute of Bioethics (EIB) reported that:
The conditions at the origin of euthanasia were in a large majority of cases generalized or seriously mutilating cancers (63%). Among the other reasons for requesting euthanasia, multiple pathologies (18% or 900 people), diseases of the nervous system (8%), diseases of the circulatory system (4%), diseases of the respiratory system (3%), psychiatric conditions (1% or 45 people) and cognitive disorders (dementia) for 49 people (1%).
The report indicates that 29 people died by euthanasia based on variable symptoms related to Long Covid. 
One may suggest that only 45 people with psychiatric conditions and 49 people with dementia died by euthanasia. Euthanasia for psychiatric conditions and dementia is an acceptance of killing people with questionable competency and ability to consent.

The Belgian report indicates that of the 45 people who died by euthanasia based on psychiatric conditions, 18 people had mood disorders (depression, bipolarity, etc.); 10 people had personality and behavioral disorders; 6 people had neurotic disorders, stressor-related disorders and somatoform disorders; 3 people had schizophrenia, schizotypal disorder and delusional disorder, and 4 people had organic mental disorders such as autism; 2 people had behavioral syndromes such as anorexia.

I have an autistic son. I am always shocked when someone is killed by lethal injection based on Autism. 

The EIB summary indicates that the euthanasia report stated:

The report states that in young psychiatric patients, "the unbearable and persistent pain was frequently associated with past experiences" such as abuse sexual, abandonment as a child, rejection by parents, behaviors self-harm and suicide attempts. The Commission added that “failed suicide attempts have made those affected aware that there is another, more dignified way to end one's life. We may be surprised at this presentation of euthanasia as a “more dignified” form of suicide.

The multiple pathologies category includes people who are not terminally ill but have chronic conditions. Nearly one-third of these deaths were people who were diagnosed with cancer, but were not terminally ill. Many of these people died by euthanasia but had treatable conditions.

The EIB summary indicates that the report stated:

However, rehabilitation and recovery are very limited in the elderly. Many patients could not accept living with severe and permanent disabilities. Dependence, loss of autonomy and the feeling of futility to wait for death were important factors that triggered their request euthanasia.
In relation to euthanasia for symptoms related to blindness/macular degeneration, the EIB stated that the report said:
...All of this created a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of being a burden to others, and the feeling that continuing to exist no longer makes sense.
The EIB summary states that more than a third of those who died for the reason of multiple pathologies, were not expected to die soon. The report indicates that 741 (14.4%) of the people who died by euthanasia, that their death was not expected soon.

The role of the euthanasia clinic (LEIF-EOL) in Belgium. According to the report, 33% of the consultations include doctors who are connected to LEIF-EOL and 19% of the first requests for euthanasia are made to doctors who are connected to LEIF-EOL.

The EIB concludes their summary by stating:

As a reminder, the Commission sticks to the statements given to it by the doctor and therefore has no no means of verifying the veracity of these declarations. In 30% of the files, the Commission decided to lift the anonymity of the declaration in order to ask additional information to the reporting physician. These were imperfections in the responses, errors of interpretation concerning the procedures followed, on several points badly, insufficiently or not completed, procedural points that have not been followed correctly,... Each time, the Commission considered that "the essential conditions of the law (voluntary, considered and of a conscious and capable patient, constant, unbearable and unrelievable suffering, resulting of a serious and incurable condition, the medical situation being hopeless)” seemed to have been respected.

There are significant issues related to the Belgian euthanasia law beyond the fact that the law gives doctors the right to kill people. 

  1. The number and reasons for killing by euthanasia continues to rise. 
  2. The law lacks significant oversight because the Commission includes several euthanasia doctors and in fact the Chair of the Commission, Dr Wim Distelmans, also operates the LEIF-EOL euthanasia clinic. 
  3. The Commission admits that there are unreported euthanasia deaths, but the Belgian government has not done anything to rectify this problem. When I wrote my book, Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, I was able to prove that the unreported euthanasia deaths tended to be the deaths that were more controversial, such as euthanasia without request or consent.

Similar to the Netherlands and Canada, the expansion of euthanasia is not a slippery slope, but rather it is inevitable. If it is acceptable to kill someone with one condition, it is hard to justify why you can't kill someone else for a similar but different condition. The report even referred to euthanasia as a "more dignified form of suicide."

Once again I thank the European Institute of Bioethics (EIB) for providing a summary of the report.

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