Belgium is the only country in the world to have legalised euthanasia for children of all ages.
Euthanasia cases are up by 13%
Three children were killed by euthanasia in 2016 and 2017 in Belgium, according to a report by the country’s federal control and evaluation committee.
Belgium legalised euthanasia for minors in 2014 – the only country in the world to have done so for children of all ages (although there is evidence of doctors intervening in the deaths of disabled babies in both Belgium and the Netherlands).
In 2016, Professor Wim Distelmans, the head of Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia, issued a statement confirming the first physician induced death of a minor, a 17 year old boy.
Sharp increase in deaths
The Committee also reports that the number of euthanasia cases rose by 13 per cent from 2016 to 2017.
In the majority of cases the increase was accounted for by patients aged between 60 and 89 years old, who were suffering from “polypathology – a combination of different illnesses, such as blindness, hearing loss and incontinence, which together make life for the patient unbearable.”
“We are seeing more and more people who no longer accept that condition,” said Professor Distelmans. “In addition, we are getting older and older, so the figures also go up. This is in fact the first generation to be confronted with polypathology.”
The number of such patients requesting euthanasia has almost doubled in the last four years from 232 to 444. Cancer remains the primary reason for euthanasia requests.
Another striking figure is how many more Flemish Dutch-speakers choose euthanasia compared to French-speakers: three to four times as many, roughly 500 to 1,500 over the last four years. A study published in April on end of life decisions among cancer patients in Flanders found that more than one in ten were from euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.
Who is Wim Distelmans?
Prof Distelmans is co-Chairman of the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee that has monitored euthanasia cases since it was legalised. He has authorised a number of other controversial euthanasia cases, such as that of 45 year old deaf twins, and a 44 year old whose sex change operation had failed.
Last November, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Tom Mortier, a Belgian man who only found out that Distelmans had killed his depressed but physically healthy mother by lethal injection when he was asked to come to the morgue to fill out paperwork on dealing with her remains.