Requests for euthanasia in Belgium are rarely refused

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By Alex Schadenberg

Euthanasia7A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management,“Process and Outcomes of Euthanasia Requests Under the Belgian Act on Euthanasia: A Nationwide Survey,” found that only 5% of requests for euthanasia in Belgium are refused.

The Belgian study on the process and outcomes of euthanasia requests was part of the “Monitoring Quality of End-of-Life Care Study.”

The researchers sent an anonymous self-administered questionnaire to 3,006 Belgian physicians by mail in March 2009. Euthanasia was legalized in Belgium in 2002.

Since they eliminated 280 of the questionnaires from the research possibilities (because the doctor could not be found, was not practicing, or had died) that left 2,726 questionnaires. Thirty-four percent—914–responded

This data in the study found that only 5% of the 363 most recent requests for euthanasia were refused.

The article states:

“We found that only 5% of all requests are actually rejected, which is considerably fewer than in The Netherlands (12%).”

The article then states:

“Unfortunately we have no information on the reasons why the attending physicians from our study refused to grant requests. …

When a psychiatric disorder is the primary diagnosis, the requests were never granted. Although the Belgian euthanasia law specifically mentions psychological suffering as grounds for requesting euthanasia.”

However since March 2009 when the study was done, it appears there is a greater acceptance of euthanasia for people with depression or psychiatric conditions in Belgium.

This January it was reported that Belgian identical twins, Marc and Eddy Verbessem, were euthanized in Belgium because they feared becoming blind.

In February it was reported that a woman with Anorexia Nervosa died by euthanasia in Belgium.

Also in February, Tom Mortier wrote an article about the euthanasia death of his depressed mother in Belgium. Mortier stated:

My mother suffered from chronic depression. Two years ago she broke off all contact with me. In April 2012 she was euthanased at the hospital of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (the Free University of Brussels).

The death of my mother has triggered a lot of questions. How is it possible that people can be euthanized in Belgium without close family or friends being contacted? Why does my country give medical doctors the exclusive power to decide over life and death? How do we judge what “unbearable suffering” is? What are the criteria to decide what “unbearable suffering” is? Can we rely on such a judgment for a mentally ill person?

A Netherlands study published in 2005 examined euthanasia and depression in relation to cancer patients and found that almost half of all the requests for euthanasia were made by patients who were depressed. And 44% of the patients who were depressed requested euthanasia, which represented a 4.1 times greater risk factor for requesting euthanasia.

A similar study in Oregon published in 2008 found that 26% of those who had requested assisted suicide were depressed or experiencing feelings of hopelessness.

The book “Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide” is a book that I wrote to examine the recent studies concerning the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Exposing Vulnerable People uncovered data proving that in Belgium:

• 32% of the assisted deaths are done without request in the Flanders region;

• 47% of the assisted deaths go unreported in the Flanders region;

• nurses are euthanizing patients even though the law prohibits nurses from doing euthanasia.

There has never been an attempted prosecution for abuses of the Belgian euthanasia law.

The Belgian people should be very concerned that those who are incompetent and/or depressed are dying by euthanasia and very few requests for euthanasia are rejected.

The Quebec government needs to reject Bill 52, the Quebec government bill to legalize euthanasia that is based on the Belgian euthanasia law. Bill 52 is very dangerous.

Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide are not safe.

Editor’s note. This first appeared at alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca.