A Slippery Slope: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Belgium

by Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director on December 2, 2014

Last month, Oxford’s Anscombe Bioethics Centre, along with the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies, St Mary’s University Twickenham, and KU Leuven, sponsored an important conference on “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium.” ‘Assisted dying’ bills are pending in the UK, hence the motivation for the conference.

A few highlights from the conference presentations:

  • “Between 2002 and 2013 deaths from euthanasia increased from 0.4% to 1.7% of all deaths in Belgium. Between 2007 and 2013 the proportion of non-terminally ill patients increased from 7% to 15% of all cases of euthanasia.”
  • “Even where there was a physical diagnosis it often seemed that existential suffering was the main motivation for euthanasia rather than the actual physical symptoms which could be addressed medically.”
  • Euthanasia has implications for organ donation: “Could the potential for organ donation influence the patient considering euthanasia and perhaps reinforce that decision?”
  • Physician assisted suicide and euthanasia jeopardizes patient-physician trust.

Read the full report here—highly recommended. As are the videos from the conference, which can be viewed here.

Unfortunately, Belgium serves as a perfect case study for the world as to what happens when physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized and enshrined as law. It’s a grim situation

May the rest of the world heed the lessons learned from this conference.

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