The euthanasia of two Belgian twins under scrutiny

Publié le : 30 January 2013

 In December 2012, Belgian twins requested euthanasia "based on a diagnosis of glaucoma, a degenerative condition of the optical nerve which can lead to blindness."The European Institute of Bioethics (EIB) has examined the case and published its analysis.   

First of all, the EIB explains that the twins were "not necessarily […] outsidethe limits of the Belgian law on euthanasia," and that "it is quite likely that all the conditions required by the law had been officially met" as they had “made a voluntary and repeated request, free from any outside pressure,"and had “based their case on an incurable medical condition and unbearable psychological suffering "             
The EIB goes on to point out that "the general public, especially abroad, is above all shocked by the fact that the twins had not reached the terminal stage of their illness," but reminds us that "Belgian law also permits euthanasia when death is not imminent." In this latter case, the law requires that "another medical opinion has to be sought either from an independent medical practitioner, from a psychiatrist or else a doctor specialized in the pathology in question" and "at least another month of reflection has to pass between the time of the patient’s written request and the act of euthanasia itself." The Institute says it believes that in the case of the twins, "a psychiatrist with the medical team which euthanized the twins was consulted."  
However, the EIB explains, "this matter has caused a certain degree of unease" because "it is as though, imperceptibly, euthanasia has come to represent the most dignified human response to situations of suffering." The European Institute of Bioethics points out that "the Belgian law is designed and has been interpreted in such wide terms that euthanasia and medically-assisted suicide appear acceptable from the moment the interested person has freely formulated his or her request." While it lays down, among other conditions, an incurable disease and the patient "has to be able to make a case for unbearable physical or psychological suffering," it is a fact that "the list of incurable conditions is practically unending" and "the notion of psychological suffering is left to the subjective appreciation of the sufferer."
The EIB concludes: "it must be clear to all of us that we are already witnessing the trivialization of euthanasia in Belgium." Moreover, "at the time when the law was being debated and was finally passed, a majority of members of Parliament felt that society was not ready to accept the euthanasia of minors and the mentally sick.". But, today, "politicians from various parties consider that the time has come to take this step."

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