Belgium: a case of euthanasia before the Court

A case of euthanasia was submitted to the Court for the first time in 13 years by the Federal control and evaluation commission on the application of the law concerning euthanasia: this case concerns an octogenarian who is not at the end of life.

This affair has been publicized by the documentary Allow me to die (at 20’35 then 38’) shown in Australia last September.

This film presents several cases of euthanasia, and underlines the extensive interpretations in Belgian law.

The case before the court concerns an 85-year-old woman, named as “Simona” in the documentary. She lives in a home for elderly people, has a social life, and no particular health problems.

She explains that she no longer wants to live, grieving from the loss of her daughter 3 months earlier. The video then shows a live broadcast of her death, carried out with the assistance of Dr. Van Hoey, on June 22, 2015. Her other daughter, with whom she has not been in contact for over 30 years, was not notified. The doctor is the president of the association “Recht op waardig sterven”, the equivalent in Flanders of the Association of the Right to Die in Dignity.

According to the article in the Libre Belgique on October 28, 2015 which gave a complete account of the story, this case presents several infractions to the law:

“Simone is not suffering from any physical problem which would lead to horrible suffering or any psychic disorder. On camera, Dr Marc Van Hoey, her family practitioner, concurs. “She does not want to die because she is depressed. No. Just because she has had enough. Had enough of life? That is not a medical diagnosis that fits into the conditions set out by the law of 2002.

When interviewed by the journalist, the doctor explained that he will indicate “reactive depression” on the declaration of euthanasia and specified that it is impossible to treat. There again, one can question: does one finish grieving in three months…Were all the treatments made available?

Furthermore, the doctor did not consult a third colleague, as specified by the law on euthanasia when the demise of a patient is not foreseen in the short term future. Why? “No problem”, responds again Dr Van Hoey to the Australian journalist. How can he be so sure? “My experience.” »

What is underlined in the report is that it consists of an assisted suicide in the measure where this woman herself takes the lethal product in a glass of water given to her by the doctor, which is not authorized under Belgian law.

The commission on euthanasia control, which has dealt with more than 8000 officially declared cases of euthanasia since 2002, has given a broader interpretation for applying the law.

Several recent cases have been the subject of harsh criticism on the international level, such as that of the young Laura, 24 years old, in good physical health, but suffering from depression, who obtained an authorization for euthanasia this summer.

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