Rise in euthanasia deaths in Belgium

Editor’s note. The following appears on the blog of Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

A Belgium newspaper is reporting that the number of euthanasia deaths in Belgium has once again risen.

The article states that:

reports on the latest figures from the (Belgium) federal monitoring agency. With more than 85 declared cases per month since the start of this year, there will be more than 1,000 deaths by euthanasia in 2011, as opposed to 954 in 2010.

The report then comments on the inequality of reporting in Belgium. The article states that:

Another “bizarre” fact highlighted by the statistics is that 84% of euthanasia cases are reported in Flemish, “which indicates that Francophone doctors are ‘declaring’ fewer cases or are less likely to ‘practice’ euthanasia.” The state monitoring agency is reluctant to draw conclusions, but wonders about the impact of “information made available to the public and doctors, as well as socio-cultural differences, and differences in medical care for the terminally ill.”

Under-reporting of euthanasia in Belgium

A study that was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ October 2010) concluded that euthanasia deaths are significantly under-reported in the Flemish region of Belgium. The study found that only 52.8% of euthanasia deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium were reported.

The 2010 euthanasia statistics indicate that 84% of all reported euthanasia deaths were from the Flemish region of Belgium. The media report suggests that there may also be a significant problem with under-reporting of euthanasia deaths in the French region of Belgium.

Deaths without request or consent

A study that was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ May 17, 2010) concluded that 32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium are done without explicit request or consent. A similar study that was also published in the CMAJ May 17, 2010 concluded that 45% of euthanasia deaths that were done by nurses in the Flemish region of Belgium were done without explicit request or consent.

The recent studies concerning the under-reporting of euthanasia and euthanasia being done without request or consent proves that the actual practice of euthanasia is not accurately represented in the annual Belgium government report.

Expansion of criteria for euthanasia in Belgium

At the same time political debate has been happening concerning the expansion of euthanasia in Belgium. Recent reports suggest that political debate continues to occur concerning the inclusion of teenagers, infants and children with disabilities and people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Organ Transplant and Euthanasia in Belgium

Euthanasia is also being promoted as a good act in Belgium within the concept of euthanasia by organ transplant. The issue of organ transplants creates a new purpose to steer people who have healthy organs but also have a life threatening or chronic condition toward death by organ transplant.

The euthanasia lobby continues to wave the flags of choice and autonomy when at the same time the practice of euthanasia in Belgium is under-reported, is being done without request or consent, is being done to people who cannot consent (Alzheimer/Dementia) and being done by pressuring people with healthy organs to give the “gift of life”.

When the Quebec government’s Dying with Dignity commission muses about opening the doors to “Belgium style” euthanasia and when the BC Civil Liberties Association (Carter/Taylor case) tells the court that euthanasia has been legalized with effective safeguards in other jurisdictions, we need to state the truth loud and clear.

* Euthanasia is not about choice or autonomy, but rather it gives physicians the right to directly and intentionally take your life.

* Euthanasia is a recipe for elder abuse by opening new avenues of abuse for dependent people.

* Euthanasia is a threat to the lives of vulnerable citizens who will be steered to euthanasia.

* Once death by euthanasia has become an accepted practice under some circumstances, the only question is – what other circumstances is euthanasia an accepted practice for?

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