BRUSSELS — A new report out of Belgium shows that among the 4,337 Belgians who opted to die by euthanasia in 2016-2017, three were ill children, and hundreds of other cases were listed as “polypathology,” or the suffrage of a combination of health issues commonly related to aging, such as blindness, hearing loss, incontinence, dementia and heart and lung diseases.
Belgium’s Federal Commission for Euthanasia Control and Evaluation recently released a report analyzing the euthanasia cases over the time period, which shows that the number of people choosing to take death into their own hands continues to rise in the country.
In 2016, 2,028 died by physician-assisted suicide, and in 2017, 2,309 ended their lives—a year-to-year increase of almost 14 percent.
Euthanasia was first legalized in Belgium in 2002, and in 2014, lawmakers decided to remove age restrictions, thus allowing terminally ill children to request to die.
“In the beginning, they presented a law that included mentally ill children,” Belgian Senator Els Van Hoof told reporters at the time. “During the debate, supporters of euthanasia talked about children with anorexia, children who are tired of life—so how far does it go?”
The first child to die under Belgian law, after requesting to do so, was a 17-year-old boy who was “suffering unbearable physical pain.” The method of death was termed “palliative sedation.” Two other children, ages 9 and 11, died last year. One of the children had muscular dystrophy, another had brain tumors and the third fought cystic fibrosis. Their cases were all stated to be terminal.
“Although, luckily, few children are involved, extending the law to discerning minors makes sense, as it aims to allow them free choice and the flow of speech with respect to childrens’ end of life,” the report claimed.
While the majority of cases where people chose to end it all—2,781—involved cancer, hundreds of deaths were marked as being due to “polypathology,” or the sufferance of multiple health issues—many of which are common to the elderly, such as blindness, loss of hearing, incontinence, gait and mobility disorders, nervous system diseases, dementia and/or significant heart ailments.
Reports state that the elderly are finding the combination of ailments intolerable and negatively affecting their quality of life, and are consequently opting to die.
“We are seeing more and more people who no longer accept that condition,” Professor Wim Distelmans, chair of the commission, told The Brussels Times. “In addition, we are getting older and older, so the figures also go up. This is in fact the first generation to be confronted with polypathology.”
“The combination of these conditions explains that the death of 60% of these patients is considered to be expected in the short term and that their suffering is unappeasable,” the report also states. “On the other hand, extreme physical suffering leads to psychic suffering, which is indicated by some patients to be a fatigue of living, but which is secondary to the physical suffering expressed. However, without a legal medical context, fatigue is never accepted by the commission as a justification for euthanasia.”
It notes that the 60-80 age group is the largest requesting euthanasia.
77 Belgians with mental or behavioral issues also died by physician-assisted suicide in 2016-2017.
Read the commission’s report in full here.
As previously reported, Distelmans is known for carrying out a lethal injection in 2013 on a woman who identified as a man and was dissatisfied with the way she looked following various “sex change” operations. Nancy Verhelst, 44, known in recent years as Nathan, cited “unbearable psychological suffering” as the reason for her death wish. Verhelst had felt rejected from her youth as her mother reportedly wished she had been born a boy.
Distelmans is also stated to have been involved in a case surrounding twin brothers who were born deaf. The 45-year-old brothers wanted to die after learning that they were going blind as did not want to face the reality of losing their independence, nor could they bear never seeing each other again. David Dufour, doctor of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, said that the twins also had other medical conditions, which combined “made life unbearable” for them psychologically.
The most recent report out of Belgium, which now shows that children are starting to die under the law, has reignited concern over the slippery slope that occurs when physician-assisted suicide is legalized.
“[C]hildren are not pets to be put down—or, at least, shouldn’t be,” remarked Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute in an article published on Thursday.
“With children being killed in the womb through abortion, disabled babies dying through medical omission or even intention, and now active euthanasia, what we are seeing is an attack on life at all stages,” the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children also remarked in 2016 after learning of the first child death. “Euthanasia is contrary to the ethos of medicine, which is to care, not to kill …”
As previously reported, Scripture outlines that God, not man, appoints the days of mankind (Job 14:5), and even before a person is born, He writes their times in His book.
“In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139:16 reads.