Euthanasia is legal under Belgian law if those making the decision can make their wishes clear and are suffering unbearable pain, according to a doctor's judgment. In Belgium, some 1,133 cases of euthanasia - mostly for terminal cancer - were recorded in 2011, about one percent of all deaths in the country, according to official figures. But this case was unusual as neither twin was suffering extreme physical pain or was terminally ill. David Dufour, the doctor who presided over the euthanasia, told RTL television news the twins had taken the decision in 'full conscience'.
Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalize euthanasia in 2002 but it currently applies only to people over the age of 18. Other jurisdictions where it is permitted include Luxembourg and the U.S. state of Oregon. Just days after the twins were killed Belgium's ruling Socialists tabled a legal amendment which would allow the euthanasia of children and Alzheimer's sufferers. The draft legislation calls for 'the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate.' The proposed changes are likely to be approved by other parties, although no date has yet been put forward for a parliamentary debate. Full story can be found here.
"The swath of people targeted for euthanasia (or 'aid in dying,' its recent and benign-sounding label)2 is ever expanding. The article claims 1 percent of all deaths in Belgium are now by euthanasia. Dutch palliative care physician Dr. Ben Zylicz warned the British House of Lords, 'If you accept euthanasia as a solution to difficult and unresolved problems in palliative care, you will never learn anything.'3
"A grand benefit of the end of life is the opportunity to make relationships right – with God and people. It is precisely the realization of mortal life’s impending end that can lead people to softened hearts, opened minds and receptive spirits. Euthanasia kills the last chance for the new birth in Christ.
"There is a conflict of interests between palliative care and euthanasia, aka aid in dying: doctors cannot be both patient advocates and executioners. Compassion means coming alongside and suffering with, not offing people for defects. Terminal patients need pain control, companionship and often anti-depressants, but not doctors deeming them better off dead."
1. NEJM, 241:39-47, July 14, 1949.
2. Van Mol, A. “Premature Termination of Life Is Not Palliative Care.” CHEST. 2013;143(1):279a-279. doi:10.1378/chest.12-2187 http://tinyurl.com/ajh3xfj
2. “Better palliative care could cut euthanasia” Hugh Matthews, BMJ 1998;317:1613 (12 December) News.