After having been informed of the decision that enables the carers of the organisation’s Belgian establishments to practice euthanasia on psychiatric patients under certain circumstances, brother René Stockman, General Superior of the Brothers of Charity, does not mince his words. In a text published on the Congregation’s website, he explains: “I was ashamed to hear of the final decision on Tuesday 12th September.” And further on: “I was even more surprised to read that they consider their decision to be conform with the Catholic doctrine and describe it as some sort of merciful assistance”.
The religious man reminds all that “the respect of life is absolute and precedes and surpasses all other fundamental value”. He denounces the unacceptable position taken by the Order of the Belgian organisation, which writes in the preamble that “this inviolability of life is no longer absolute, although still fundamental- even more fundamental than the patient’s autonomy and care relationships- but in the end, under exceptional circumstances, can be subordinated to the patient’s auto-determination”. In the facts, “auto-determination as a value is given a higher appreciation than the person’s inviolability”. It “is considered the ultimate ‘good’ “; However, “the absolute respect of life is, in my opinion, a universal value and cannot be set aside as something related to culture”.
Brother René Stockman then questions himself on the ‘dead ends‘ met by certain psychiatric patients: “And could it be possible to consider euthanasia as the ‘ultimate therapy’ when other forms of therapy seem to fail and we end up considering that a person is incapable of receiving another treatment? Should we not invest even more in new therapies, in new care models and drugs for these patients, in developing a palliative form of psychiatry? “. He adds that experts’ opinions concerning this point differ from the Belgian organisation’s. Indeed, the latter “refrains from establishing the link between the dead end, i.e., the fact of not being able to receive any further treatment, and euthanasia”.
He questions the competence of the management board in terms of mental health, and denounces the “internal contradictions” of the text, which, he explains, includes “large-scale negative judicial consequences in several fields that a certain number of jurists have already underlined several times”.
“Euthanasia is neither a therapeutic act nor is it a medical act belonging to the doctor’s therapeutic freedom, even if it is indeed carried out by a doctor. (…) Indeed, it is not part of the nature of medicine to kill intentionally, even if death is inevitable, and no one is fighting here to prolong life at any cost”, explains the Superior of the Order who is astounded by the perverse ideology such a decision supposes. “Euthanasia has always meant killing another human being, even when it is done with the greatest of care. For the love of God, how does this meet with our charism of charity, the charism of life?”
For now, he has not mentioned any disciplinary measures against the Belgian organisation of the Brothers of Charity, hoping for a last-minute twist.