Euthanasia is legal in Belgium but must only be carried out by a doctor and with the patient’s permission.
A high proportion of deaths classed as euthanasia in Belgium involved patients who did not ask for their lives to be ended, a study found.
More than 100 nurses admitted to researchers that they had taken part in ‘terminations without request or consent’.
Although euthanasia is legal in Belgium, it is governed by strict rules which state it should be carried out only by a doctor and with the patient’s permission.
The disturbing revelation – which shows that nurses regularly go well beyond their legal role – raises fears that were assisted suicides allowed in Britain, they could never be properly regulated.
Since its legalization eight years ago, euthanasia now accounts for 2 per cent of deaths in Belgium – or around 2,000 a year.
The researchers found that a fifth of nurses admitted being involved in the assisted suicide of a patient.
But nearly half of these – 120 of 248 – also said there was no consent.
‘The nurses in our study operated beyond the legal margins of their profession,’ said the report’s authors in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
It is likely many nurses ‘under-reported’ their involvement for fear of admitting an illegal activity, the study said.
But it added that many were probably acting according to their patients’ wishes, ‘even if there was no explicit request’.
Last night, Dr Peter Saunders, director of the Care Not Killing campaign in Britain, said: ‘We should take a warning from this that wherever you draw the line, people will go up to it and beyond it.’
‘Once you have legalised voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia will inevitably follow,’ he added.
But pro -euthanasia group Dignity in Dying said rules that see the patient taking their own life, rather than a doctor administering the drugs, could still work.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1285423/Half-Belgiums-euthanasia-nurses-admit-killing-consent.html#ixzz0qURG2FdG
[10 June 2010, Simon Caldwell, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1285423/Half-Belgiums-euthanasia-nurses-admit-killing-consent.html ]