The European Court of Human rights has agreed to hear the case of a Belgian man whose mentally ill but physically healthy mother was euthanized by doctors without the family’s knowledge.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002, but the law requires that the person be in a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.”
Doctors administered a lethal injection to Tom Mortier’s mother in 2012 without prior consultation with family members. According to the human rights organization, ADF International, one day later doctors explained that Mortier’s mother was euthanized for “untreatable depression.”
His mother, ADF reports, was physically healthy, and the psychiatrist who had been treating her for 20 years confirmed that her condition did not satisfy the requirements of the Belgian euthanasia law.
“My mother had a severe mental problem. She had to cope with depression throughout her life. She was treated for years by psychiatrists and eventually the contact between us was broken. A year later she received a lethal injection. Neither the oncologist, who administered the injection nor the hospital had informed me or any of my siblings that our mother was even considering euthanasia,” Mortier said.
In 2014, Belgian expanded its euthanasia law to allow doctors to terminate the lives of children who express a wish to end their lives. In August, two children, aged 9 and 11, had their lives terminated, making them the youngest people ever euthanized in the world.
“The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we see the tragic consequences in this case. According to the most recent government report, more than six people per day are killed in this way, and that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. The figures expose the truth that, once these laws are passed, the impact of euthanasia cannot be controlled. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Colombia and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, California and Washington, DC.