Warning from Belgium: safe legislation is impossible

HOPE-Australia-Belgium-Euthanasia-Warning-Legislation.jpgSafeguards, qualifications, accountability, and consent: none of these exist in Belgium when it comes to their euthanasia laws.

Cambridge University Press is set to release Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium, which will be the first interdisciplinary study of euthanasia to be published.

Bioedge’s article outlines a preview of what the book’s projected contents will be, as well as what the concluded results of the study reveal:

The editors, David Albert Jones, of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford; Chris Gastmans, of the Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven in Belgium; and Calum MacKellar, of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, say that the volume is the first interdisciplinary study of Belgian euthanasia. The authors point out that: 

  • The system is not transparent. Just 16 members of a euthanasia commission are supposed to oversee thousands of euthanasia cases.
  • The system relies on self-reporting. Of the thousands of reported cases, only one has been referred to a public prosecutor and it is estimated that only half of all cases are even reported.
  • Since legalisation in 2002, euthanasia has been “normalised”, with more and more cases of life-ending without request.
  • A leading palliative care doctor who is sympathetic to euthanasia warned in 2013 that “once the barrier of legalistation is passed, [euthanasia] tends to develop a dynamic of its own and extend beyond agreed restrictions”.
  • “Continuous deep sedation” is increasingly being used as a means of euthanasia.

They conclude:

“Death by euthanasia in Belgium is, generally, no longer regarded as an exception requiring special justification. Instead, it is often regarded as a normal death and a benefit not to be restricted to without special justification.”   

Is it really surprising that euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths are proliferating? Hardly. When a system depends on “self-reporting” to be monitored, why on earth would its abusers report accurately – if at all?

Belgium is killing its own citizens. Their current situation is a tragic affirmation that legalised murder cannot be controlled. As the book’s author conclude, the only way to prevent such a tragedy is to never allow assisted suicide and euthanasia legalisation to pass:

... the only secure way to avoid these consequences is to resist calls to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide and instead invest in palliative care as well as research into end-of-life practices while re-emphasising the preciousness of human life.”

Australia must not follow the same destructive path as Belgium. We have no need to legalise killing our own citizens. We can help all Australians to live to the full, natural extent of their lives. We can do better than euthanasia and assisted suicide.