CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2021 / 08:00 am
Euthanasia and assisted suicide cases have risen rapidly in Belgium and the Netherlands since the practices were legalized in 2002, according to a bioethics institute.
The Vienna-based Institute for Medical Anthropology and Bioethics (IMABE) noted on Feb. 12 that cases had increased in Belgium from just 24 in 2002 to 2,656 in 2019. In the same period, cases had surged in the Netherlands from 1,882 to 6,361.
IMABE, which was founded in 1988 and is linked to the Austrian Catholic bishops’ conference, cited a study published last month by the ethicist Kaspar Raus from Ghent University, which concluded that safeguards intended to govern euthanasia in Belgium had failed in practice.
Raus and his co-authors offered three reasons for this failure, said CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.
First, the scope of application of the Euthanasia Act of 2002 has expanded. According to the law, assisted suicide is only permitted in the case of serious, incurable, and unbearable diseases. But in practice, being “tired of life” is also an accepted reason.
Doctors are also reportedly able to bypass the law by diagnosing so-called “polypathology.” This refers to multiple complaints that occur in old age, such as loss of vision and hearing, chronic pain, rheumatism, weakness, and fatigue.
The study said that in 2019, “polypathology represented 17.4 percent
of all reported euthanasia cases and a staggering 47 percent of all reported nonterminal euthanasia cases.”
Second, the study suggested that the mandatory consultation with one or two independent doctors does not offer any real security. The doctors’ competencies are limited and, above all, their assessment is not binding.