Euthanasia: "Supply creates demand"

"The countries that are questioning possible legalization should be aware that supply creates demand." Montero. 

Etienne Montero, Dean of the Faculty of Law of Namur was interviewed by Violante De Montclos for the French journal Le Point recently.

This is the translated text of the interview:

Montclos: For the first time, the law authorizing euthanasia in Belgium is being criticized. We talked with Etienne Montero about the case of Van Den Bleeken, of this "death penalty in reverse"...

Montero: The death of Frank Van Den Bleeken has not occurred, but after him, 15 other detainees have already made a request for lethal injection. It has been forgotten that in September 2012, a 48 year old psychiatric inmate was indeed euthanized ... Our country has been condemned 14 times by the European Court of Human Rights because we continue to hold such prisoners under conditions that do not correspond to their state of psychiatric patients judged responsible for their actions. This lack of care, being accepted as a reason for euthanasia, reveal how the barriers posed in 2002 have been jumped one after the other.

Montclos: Has the number of euthanasia deaths increased?

Montero: Exponentially, yes. In twelve years, it went from 199 to 1,454 deaths per year. And I speak here about the referrals (reports) from doctors to the Board of Control, as the authorities admit they have no way to assess the number of actually practiced euthanasia deaths, probably much more important. Furthermore, in November 2014, euthanasia was legally open to minors, regardless of their age ...

Montclos: How is the legality of lethal injections controlled?

Montero: By a commission that scrutinizes the files forwarded by the doctors. But it is an a posteriori review, that is to say, once people have already died, and the Commission only has at its disposal the information that the doctor is willing to provide. Everything is biased. Moreover, in twelve years, no records were sent to court ...

Montclos: A doctor, even a general practitioner, can he decide alone to access the patient's request?

Montero: This may be the family doctor, yes, but the law requires him to seek a second opinion. The problem is that, to facilitate the procedure, a physician network was set up - the EOF, End of Life doctors on the French side or LEIF in Flanders. They are trained doctors practicing euthanasia and who are mostly made use of for this second opinion. Now these are doctors support the euthanasia cause, often members of the ADMD - Association for the right to die with dignity. Again, the ethical control is biased ...

Montclos: You have carefully studied the reports provided by the Board of Control for twelve years. What are you implying?

Montero: The law says that, to access euthanasia, it must point to a serious and incurable disease, and unbearable pain that cannot be relieved. But these two conditions are not at all interpreted today as they were in 2002. Today, for example, the Commission admits cases of multiple pathologies. These are often elderly people who suffer, for example, a decline that vision, arthritis, deafness, kidney failure ... None of these pathologies, although incurable, is not serious, but it is accepted today that all of these age-related diseases justifies the application and euthanasia of people with the only consequences of old age have increased ...

Montclos: And "unbearable suffering", is not there also a complicated test to evaluate?

Montero: The more we talk about physical pain but also psychic ... And, again, the interpretation of the law has evolved. In 2002, it was not about euthanasia for the depressed, demented, psychotic. Today these happen every year. But when euthanasia is invited into the field of psychiatry, it is worrying, because psychiatry is precisely to meet the vital impulse to patients who have lost ...

Montclos: It is not essential for access to euthanasia, to be indeed at the end of life ...

Montero: Not at all. More and more people seek and obtain death when their death is not expected soon. Now we see the amazing concept of preventive euthanasia. It applies to patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's asking while still lucid, for a lethal injection before showing advanced symptoms of the disease. It applied to the case of Verbessem brothers, deaf twins who had been diagnosed with glaucoma who were facing long-term blindness, and were euthanized in 2012 ... We demand, and death is obtained not because we suffer, but because we are afraid at the thought of suffering ... The countries that are questioning possible legalization should be aware that supply creates demand. When euthanasia was authorized twelve years ago in Belgium, it was presented as an ethical transgression, an exception reserved for extreme situations. Twelve years later, its scope has expanded considerably.

Etienne Montero is the author of Appointment with Death. Ten years of legal euthanasia in Belgium, Anthemis editions.

Further reading:

Belgium professor warns Quebec about euthanasia risks
The nihilistic liberalism of assisted dying
Stay of Execution for Belgian prisoner
Belgium prisoner euthanasia - when words and oaths lose their meaning
The unfolding logic of euthanasia