Last week, Doctor Wim Distelmans was named in a complaint filed by a woman following the euthanasia of her mother (Gènéthique press review on April 21st, 2014). Dr. Distelmans is the President of the Belgian Euthanasia Control Commission and has been “at the focal point of numerous criticisms over the last few years” (La Vie), hence fuelling the debate.
The criticisms have mainly come from the Dossards jaunes, “a group of young professionals who have joined forces to highlight that control over euthanasia legislation has broken down”. On the one hand, they denounce the lack of pluralism within the Commission with one quarter of its members belonging to the ADMD – the principal lobby in favour of the 2002 legislation on euthanasia, and on the other hand, they are frustrated about “laxity” in terms of control. In fact, none of the 7,000 euthanasia records officially processed has been submitted to the courts, “which is statistically surprising” explains group co-ordinator, Etienne Dujardin. Jacqueline Herremans, President of the ADMD and member of the Control Commission responded by pointing out that the circumstances for euthanasia satisfied legal provisions and did not warrant control – this is another criticism levelled against the Control Commission. The French CCNE (National Consultative Ethics Committee) has already referred to its lack of monitoring. In 2012, Dr. Distelmans personally acknowledged the fact that 50% of euthanasia cases were practised illegally in Belgium.