Belgian nurses and social workers specialising in end-of-life care are leaving palliative care units because they are becoming transformed into “euthanasia institutions”. A large number of hospital staff are leaving this sector because they do not want their work reduced to preparing patients and their families for lethal injections. These findings were highlighted by Professor Benoit Beuselinck, consultant oncologist at the hôpital de l’université catholique de Louvain (Louvain Catholic University Hospital), who added that nurses see euthanasia requests as “an impossible burden” “in total contradiction to their initial desire to administer genuine palliative care to end-of-life patients”.
In a book entitled Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium, Professor Benoit Beuselinck shows how euthanasia legislation has corrupted Belgian medicine “by eroding palliative care and placing patients in mortal danger”. As far as he is concerned, euthanasia poses a “real threat to medical practice” and he regrets the fact that the rights of health professionals and establishments in terms of conscientious objection are inadequately protected.
He comments that hospital physicians steer clear of euthanasia requests and return them to the palliative care units “in the belief that these doctors are used to dealing with end-of-life issues”. (…) Thus doctors in palliative care units are obliged to administer euthanasia to patients specifically sent to them for this purpose. Furthermore, “some palliative care units have decided to no longer admit patients if they have received an active euthanasia request in order to prevent palliative care units from becoming the hospital’s “euthanasia centre”.
The book explains that, cynically, the government is gradually cutting back on the palliative care budget as the number of deaths by euthanasia rises in Belgium.
Although access to euthanasia is legally restricted to adults with intolerable suffering but capable of giving their consent, and emancipated minors, the number of physicians practising euthanasia increased from 954 to 2,021 between 2010 and 2015. The law is interpreted in such a liberal manner that euthanasia is, in fact, available on request, and doctors are now administering lethal injections to patients with dementia and mental disorders.
Catholic Herald, Simon Caldwell (18/01/2018)