Monday, December 10, 2012

The dangers of legalised killing

Euthanasia became legal in Belgium in 2002. A report on the first 10 years of euthanasia in Belgium by the European Institute of Bioethics makes disturbing reading.

According to the report, nearly half of the 16 members of the commission set up to ensure that the law was kept were found to be members or associates of the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity, which campaigns for euthanasia and the widening of legal conditions;

in dealing with more than 5,000 cases, the commission never felt the need to report a single case to the Crown Prosecution Service;

although a written declaration from the patient was required before euthanasia, the commission accepted the situation when none was provided;

the commission allowed euthanasia in cases where diseases were not life-threatening;

the commission decided that a coma, loss of independence or progressive dementia were sufficient to qualify as unbearable and unrelievable psychological suffering;

the commission decided not to verify the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering because consideration should be given to the fact that a patient could refuse pain treatment and the unbearable nature of the pain depended on the patient's own ideas and values; and

although the law specified that the lethal substances had to be handed to the doctor in person by a registered pharmacist and left-over quantities returned, lethal substances were handed out to families or by chemists' assistants and no check was made on the return of surplus amounts.

BioEdge says in the Netherlands a regional euthanasia review committees' annual report for 2011 shows that the committees in several cases seriously exceeded the statutory deadline for issuing their findings, which was both "undesirable" and "unlawful."

Although there are expected to be further attempts to legalise euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide in both England and Scotland before long, it is unlikely that either euthanasia or assisted suicide will be legalised soon. It is hoped, however, that these reports will serve as a serious warning about what can happen when the legal gates are opened.