People are more than a budget item

The president of Belgium’s largest health insurance fund, Luc Van Gorp, has boldly linked making euthanasia more accessible to saving of health and aged care costs in a recent interview with a local newspaper.

Van Gorp was speaking to Nieuwsblad about the strain on health and aged care resources in a country where the population of those aged 80 and over will double by 2050. Van Gorp proposed the ‘radically different approach’ of allowing a “softer form” of euthanasia to elderly persons who are tired of life.

“Many elderly people are tired of life,” Van Gorp said. “Why would you necessarily want to prolong such a life? Those people don't want that themselves, and when it comes to budgets: it only costs the government money.”

It’s not just about those who are tired of life; cost-saving measures could also be applied by asking those in a terminal condition whether they really want to live longer. Van Gorp continued:

“Also ask the people themselves. For example, some cancer patients are given heavy, expensive medication at the end of their lives to prolong their lives by a few days, sometimes even literally a few hours. But is that really what those patients want at that moment? That medication costs a lot and there is hardly any quality of life in return.”

Shocking as these comments are, the cost-benefit analysis of euthanasia is nothing new. Remember when the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer in Canada released a report that found the government would save an additional $62 million in health care costs each year if the country’s euthanasia regime was expanded to those without a terminal illness?

Then there was the Guernsey MP, Lester Queripel, who last year suggested that the country’s Health and Social Care Committee accept that “considerable savings could be realised if assisted dying was to be introduced.”

As awful as the public comments made by these euthanasia advocates are, more awful are the many elected officials and public servants who base their decision-making on the financial cost of providing people with good medical and other care at the end of life, but would never be so honest as to say it publicly.

Our elderly and ill deserve to be more than a budget line item.