Catholic psychiatric hospitals in Belgium ‘adjust’ their view of euthanasia

Elements in the Catholic Church apparently have entered a new era of flexibility on doctrines that once stood as seemingly permanent protections for the sanctity of life. Michael Cook reports in Bioedge:

One of the last substantial barriers to increasing the number of euthanasia cases for non-terminally-ill psychiatric patients in Belgium seems to have crumbled.

A religious order in the Catholic Church, the Brothers of Charity, is responsible for a large proportion of beds for psychiatric patients in Belgium – about 5,000 of them. The international head of the order, Brother René Stockman, is a Belgian who has been one of the leading opponents of euthanasia in recent years.

Nonetheless, in a surprise move this week, the board controlling the institutions of the Brothers of Charity announced that from now on, it will allow euthanasia to take place in their psychiatric hospitals.

In a statement posted on their website the Brothers of Charity explain the policy shift. “We take seriously unbearable and hopeless suffering and patients’ request for euthanasia. On the other hand, we do want to protect lives and ensure that euthanasia is performed only if there is no more possibility to provide a reasonable perspective to treat the patient.”

Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has already happened dozens of times in Belgium. But from now on it will probably be easier for people suffering from schizophrenia, personality
disorders, depression, autism, or loneliness to access it. In fact, it will be hard to find an institution in Belgium where euthanasia is not being offered as an option.

Brother Stockman was stunned. “We deplore this new vision,” he told the media.

Nursing homes and hospitals opposing euthanasia have been under even more pressure after a court fined a Catholic nursing home a total of €6,000 last year for blocking a resident from accessing euthanasia.

Will Pope Francis, the Progressive Pope, come out strongly against this change in Church doctrine? I am no expert on his views, but my general impression is that he is less likely than his predecessors to take on the Brothers of Charity, who have caved into fiscal, legal, and no doubt social pressure. I do know that the Catholic Church is far from monolithic, and that various religious orders (cough: Jesuits) have developed their own subcultures, and some are more accommodative of social trends than others.

Nonetheless, to this non-Catholic, yhis is a shocking development, a breach in a dam that was one of our few powerful institutional protections for life as a sacred gift. 

Handing over the power to terminate lives of law abiding citizens… what could possibly go wrong?