The Shocking Fiasco of a Euthanasia in Belgium

On 6th September 2023, Sudinfo revealed that a Belgian woman in her thirties suffering from terminal cancer had been smothered by two nurses using a pillow following a failed euthanasia attempt.

The young 36-year-old woman was suffering from cancer and in December 2021, had been informed by her doctors that she had only another year to live.

As her condition worsened, she applied for euthanasia. The latter was practised on 29th March 2022. The procedure took place in the presence of a doctor and two nurses who had been attending the patient for several months. The product injected did not produce the expected lethal effect due to inadequate dosage. The medical team therefore smothered the young woman with a pillow.  This was indicated by the autopsy as well as by the testimony of one of the nurses revealed to a third party.

Quite rightly this caused a stir in Belgium and abroad, denouncing a barbaric act.  This gives cause for concern however on the gravity of the intended euthanasia which led apparently benevolent people to such cruelty.

What exactly happened? The inquiry will tell in due course since Alexina’s partner and her 15-year-old daughter have lodged a complaint with the court in Liège.

The reason recorded against this euthanasia request was for the relief of suffering. According to the medical team, euthanasia was the only solution. What about proposing palliative care instead of such a summary solution?

Beyond the sordid and dramatic aspect of this case, the manner in which the media report the facts is at the very least astonishing.

It appears revelatory of the confusion which has taken root in the Belgian procedure between sedative and euthanasia products. The terms sedation and euthanasia are now commonly used quite indifferently. As if sedation normally practiced with the intention of relieving pain, injected in a strong dose, appeared as a disguised form of euthanasia.

This recalls what has been denounced in the Netherlands. In the 3rd 5-yearly evaluation report (2012-2016) of the Dutch law, issued in July 2017, a study of death certificates has shown that “Deep and continuous sedations until death” have increased from 8.2% of deaths in 2005 to 18% in 2015.

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