Everyone who heard Tom Mortier speak at the recent #HOPE2015 Adelaide Symposium or at the more recent HOPE inaugural conference in Dublin, Ireland, was certainly moved emotionally by the story of the euthanasia death of his mother. She was physically well but suffered from clinical depression.The story itself is well known now across the globe. It is a clear example of the category shift in Belgium that allows now for euthanasia for a much broader range of circumstances than was ever envisaged when the law was debated and passed in 2001 and 2002. It is also a very clear example of what happens when the pursuit of autonomy moves past the natural boundaries of application to a point where even familial relationships count for little.
"You've just taken away the suffering of one person and transposed it to another!' " Tom to Dr Distelmans.
Tom is a dear friend. We spent a few days sightseeing and talking after the Adelaide event. As he has said repeatedly that he never asked for this. His life and that of his family have been radically altered by events beyond his control. He declares quite openly that he is not an activist. But he is someone who is grappling with the pursuit of justice; and that in a country where he finds that the cultural shift towards accepting euthanasia as a right sees him as one of only a few voices of opposition.
No-one should ever experience such life-shattering events. But as Tom says, he knows that he is not the only one. There are others.
The pursuit of justice needs a voice. Tom is such a voice. And while it is difficult and deeply frustrating to seek for justice to be done in an environment where many, if not most, cannot see the problem; justice will be done. Justice may be portrayed as a blindfolded woman, but she will have her way.
During the Adelaide symposium and also since returning to Belgium, Tom has been co-operating with the Australian SBS television network in the production of a documentary. He also co-operated with Rachel Aviv from The New Yorker in a recently published expose on Belgium's love affair with euthanasia.
I urge readers to consider how difficult it must be to retell these events time and time again. Tom is not seeking the limelight nor to bring attention to himself but, rather to an issue that cries out for justice; not just for himself, his mother and his family, but for his entire beloved homeland of Belgium.
I encourage anyone who genuinely wishes to gain an understanding about Belgium's experiment with euthanasia to read the New Yorker article (linked here).
We should all keep Tom and his family in our thoughts with gratitude for his incredible courage.