Pro-death Insanity Envelops Belgium

To most people's minds, the notion of killing others because they are sick, suffering, or disabled is simply outlandish, because our moral code rightly dictates that those so afflicted need comfort, care, and as much positive support as we can muster.

However, there's an insidious creeping horror that is progressively challenging our inherent notions of compassion and decency: the Culture of Death, which, over the last 30 years, has steadily been pushing the limits of acceptable medical behavior. Europe has been ground zero for the pro-deathers' ultimate goal: Death on demand at any time, anywhere, for any reason, for anyone, and by any means necessary -- usually by assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Even within the European pro-death context, Belgium has gone stark raving mad.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002, its proponents piously declaring that the law was necessary because (a) people had the right to ask to be killed, and (b) that euthanasia was already happening and needed to be legalized so that it could be regulated. As had happened earlier in the Netherlands, the Belgian pro-deathers trumpeted the "safeguards" within the law -- for example, that euthanasia was for a very limited few: those of a sound mind older than 18, suffering a terminal incurable physical illness, and where there was absolute no medical way to alleviate suffering.

In short order, the "safeguards" were circumvented and then completely ignored, the solemn disagreement of the pro-deathers notwithstanding. Not only were the legal "safeguards" ignored, but euthanasia was expanded to those who were not terminally ill, had no physical suffering, and even for those who weren't mentally competent to request it. Thus, euthanasia was justified for example, for some elderly patients who had chronic problems such as arthritis, poor sight or hearing, and even for being 'tired of life."

Unsurprisingly, euthanasia deaths skyrocketed by more than 500% between 2002 and 2013 -- often ignoring the state's "safeguards." For example, a 2010 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that 32% of euthanasia deaths in one area of Belgium were carried out without the patient ever having requested it.

The perfect storm of acceptance of medicalized killing (surveys suggest approximately three-quarters of Belgians support it) and the idea that killing is a preferable and even desirable solution to life's problems has lead to increasingly bizarre occurrences. For example, in 2012 two deaf brothers who were both experiencing deteriorating eyesight were euthanized. In another instance a 44 year-old whose sex reassignment operation had gone wrong was killed and a severely depressed woman who suffered sexual abuse by her psychiatrist chose euthanasia over living.

The acceptance of medicalized killing has also resulted in a Belgian first: The developing of a medical protocol for harvesting the organs of euthanized patients, twisting the act of killing into an altruistic act of selfless mercy, and is considered standard medical treatment.

Now comes legalized euthanasia for children.

While this idea is not new (a crackpot Scottish MP has been pushing this notion for years), it is likely to become Belgian law this spring. Although this is unsurprising given the absolute slippery slope enacted by acceptance of medicalized killing, what the Belgian pro-deathers are proposing exceeds all previous outrages, going far beyond medical killing allowed anywhere else in the world.

The macabre reasoning in Belgium is chillingly simple: If euthanasia is available for those over 18, pretty much for any reason whatsoever, as is now the case, (a) it's discrimination to disallow it for children and youth, (b) it's already been done under the radar and the legalization will ensure no abuse, (c) it will only result in a very few killings a year, and (d) children have as much right to a "death with dignity" as adults. Oh, and by the way, parents will have to give their permission, of course.

To this end, last December, the Upper House of the Belgium Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize the medicalized killing of children. Support was widespread, including from a group of 16 pediatricians who asserted that terminally-ill children are wise way beyond their years and so were perfectly capable of asking to be killed. In May the Lower House, which is expected to support the legalization, will take up the bill.

However, the utter lie of Belgian "death with dignity" is perhaps best uncovered when one examines the oft-repeated pro-deather argument that unbiased bureaucratic control will prevent abuse. The Belgian entity charged with controlling and documenting medicalized killing is the 16-member Commission for Control and Assessment. Nearly half of its members are prominent advocates of the leading Belgian right-to-die society. The Commission condoned the killing of the two deaf brothers and anorexic patient mentioned earlier. Just to add more insanity to the mix, the Commission's powerful chairman for the last 10 years is none other than Dr. Wim Distelmans, the rock-star leading practitioner of medicalized killing in the country. Distelmans recently was awarded a $205,000 grant from his university for being the key player in bending public opinion to the acceptance of medical killing in Belgium, noting that Distelmans is much admired for how he treats those he kills with 'respect."

With the pro-death foxes watching the Belgian henhouse, what could possibly go wrong?

Mark P. Mostert, PhD, is a member of the Board of Directors at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. 

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