Belgium [Legally] Euthanizes First Minor Child under Law

Two years ago [2014], Belgium’s King Philippe signed into law a bill that allowed children to be euthanized. It was a controversial move, one that drew international condemnation, including from the American Academy of Pediatrics. After the bill became law, any child could legally be euthanized, if they asked to be and had parental consent. Children did not need to be terminally ill; they only needed to be “in great pain” and for there to be no available treatment. Defenders of the bill point to the requirement of approval from both doctors and psychiatrists as proof that the law is fair and safe — yet the entire reason the bill was passed to begin with was because children were already being euthanized in Belgium. Instead of prosecuting the doctors who were illegally euthanizing children, Belgium just made it legal. And Belgium has just [legally] euthanized their first child. The identity of the child has been kept private, but the child was reportedly a 17-year-old suffering from an incurable illness. The nature of the illness has also not been disclosed. A member of Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission confirmed that the child has been killed. Wim Distelmans, a notorious Belgian doctor who euthanized a transgender man and blind twins and arranged an “inspiring” tour of Auschwitz, chairs Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia, and applauds the allowance of euthanasia for children. He admitted that few children had requested euthanasia, but “that does not mean we should deny them the right to a dignified death.” Belgian Senator Jean-Jacques De Gucht also spoke in favor of the child’s euthanasia. “I think...

Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Patients: Canada and Its Carter v. Canada Law

In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Carter v. Canada case to legalize physician-assisted suicide for competent, consenting adults whose suffering is due to a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition and gave Parliament a year to develop a regulatory regime along these “parameters.” The Parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted “Dying” suggested that the “grievous and irremediable” criterion includes nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. The federal government’s Bill C-14, on the other hand, defined “grievous and irremediable” as an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capabilities” in a person for whom “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.” The Senate ultimately passed the bill but the controversy about assisted suicide for psychiatric patients is still raging. In a June 21, 2016 commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal “Should assisted dying for psychiatric disorders be legalized in Canada?”, authors Scott Y.H. Kim MD PhD and Trudo Lemmens LLM DCL warn against this. As they note: In Belgium and the Netherlands, medical assistance in dying has been provided to people with chronic schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe eating disorders, autism, personality disorders and even prolonged grief. The authors conclude that: Because of the necessarily broad criteria used to regulate assisted dying (in Canada), legalizing the practice for psychiatric conditions will likely place already vulnerable patients at risk of premature death. However, others like Belgium psychiatrist Joris Vandenberghe, MD, PhD disagree: “I think the current approach taken by the Canadian government is a bit too strict because it doesn’t fully recognize the enormous impact that psychiatric disorders can have on patients,” Dr Vandenberghe told Medscape Medical News....

Assisted Suicide Victory in New York Appellate Division

A clear and welcome ruling came down Tuesday, 3 May 2016, from the NY Appellate Division in an assisted suicide case in which NDY filed a friend-of-the-court brief joined by ten other national and state disability organizations. The Court found no constitutional right to assisted suicide. Below is an excerpt from the 36-page decision: [P]laintiffs rely on two papers that purport to offer empirical evidence that Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, now in effect for over 20 years, has not invited the fears articulated by people opposed to aid-in-dying, such as an adverse impact on vulnerable populations, and the difficulty in distinguishing whether a wish to end one’s life is driven by a desire to control one’s death, clinical depression, or something else. However, even were a finder of fact to determine that aid-in-dying is “workable,” the issue before us transcends mere practical concerns. As the Supreme Court stated in Glucksberg, a state’s interest in preserving human life “is symbolic and aspirational as well as practical” (521 US at 729), favorably quoting the New York State Task Force, which observed: “‘While suicide is no longer prohibited or penalized, the ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia shores up the notion of limits in human relationships. It reflects the gravity with which we view the decision to take one’s own life or the life of another, and our reluctance to encourage or promote these decisions.’ New York Task Force 131-132” (id.). . . . . We find that, even giving plaintiffs the benefit of every reasonable inference, they have not presented sufficient allegations to suggest that the Penal Law has an...

Canada: Supreme Court Gives Extension for Euthanasia Law; Quebec Registers First Death

Canada’s Supreme Court has given the government a four month extension to pass legislation on euthanasia, after which there will be no legal protections. The court struck down a law banning euthanasia last February in the case of Carter v. Canada. The ruling gave the parliament 12 months to pass a law codifying a national euthanasia policy, which it has yet to do. At the same time, Quebec’s government has announced it will not prosecute doctors who implement the euthanasia policy and this month the first death by assisted suicide was registered at a medical facility. Dr Paul Saba, who legally challenged the government’s euthanasia law, noted that the World Medical Association has clearly said that “euthanasia is not a medical act” and pointed out that “the criteria the government is using to permit euthanasia is full of holes”. Amy Hasbrouck with the disabilities rights group Not Dead Yet raised concerns that safeguards are not being put in place to protect patients from coercion, including little home support, palliative care, and other services. “If the person wants to die at home but ends up in a prison-like facility with one bath a week and everyone getting up at the same time, this is not a dignified way to live. A person may choose euthanasia because social services are not enough. This is coercive,” stated Hasbrouck. [PNCI, Newsletter, Volume 10, No 1, January 29,...

Canadian Disaster: The Biggest Under-Reported Story in US Media — Euthanasia Enters Canada

This February [2015], The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian law that makes it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations. The court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling. Until then; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands. If the government doesn’t write a new law, the court’s exemption for physicians will stand. Against this ghastly situation, however, there are welcome voices of opposition. In a September article in the Canadian press titled “Quebec’s split over euthanasia a warning for Canada”, reporter Allan Woods writes: But with time running out before Dec. 10 — the date that patients can begin requesting the procedure — hospitals and health-care providers are scrambling to draw up policies and find the staff who will carry out those patients’ wishes. If that wasn’t tough enough, some of those who might be expected to lead the change — palliative care physicians and hospice administrators — have let it be known that they are instead digging trenches for the battle. “The vocation of a palliative care hospice is to provide care, and that doesn’t include medical aid in dying,” said Élise Rheault, director of Maison Albatros Trois-Rivières. Mr. Woods goes on to write that: Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, a doctor himself, says the refusal by the province’s hospices to provide the procedure amounts to “administrative fundamentalism” and he accused palliative care doctors — who have a right under the law to conscientious objection — of acting like hospital owners rather...