Belgium's euthanasia law abused to kill patients without consent, Church warns

Belgium's euthanasia law is being used to end the life of patients even without legal safeguards, and the government agency concerned has not blown the whistle on suspected legal abuses, the Catholic Church has warned.

(REUTERS / Laurent Dubrule)Protesters demonstrate against a new law authorizing euthanasia for children, in Brussels. February 11, 2014.

In an article published on Jan. 9, the Belgian Church's Cathobel news agency accused the Federal Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission of not reporting suspected abuses of the euthanasia law and turning these in for an investigation. Auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols of Mechelen-Brussels said doctors and other medical professionals were also troubled about this issue, The Catholic Herald relayed.

According to the Cathobel report, it seemed that the commission was not functioning according to its role and was instead violating it. It pointed out that not a single incident was referred to prosecutors in the past 15 years since the euthanasia law was created.

Under the law, the commission had the task of verifying that these deaths by euthanasia had indeed been following legal protocols. It was also required to refer suspected violations to a state prosecutor within two months.

Cathobel added that a commission member had even stepped down when prosecutors were not informed that there had been a case where a dementia patient had been killed without consent and the latter's family had complained to the commission.

Speaking to the Catholic News Service on Jan. 11, Bishop Kockerols echoed the Cathobel's accusation that the commission was not doing its duties. He also reiterated their stance against euthanasia and ensured that bishops would support investigations into suspected legal abuses.

For now, Bishop Kockerols said he was pleased that there was now a debate among prominent Belgians regarding euthanasia practices. Despite the widespread support for the euthanasia law, he highlighted the importance of recognizing the "moral dangers" of such practices.

Last month, The Daily Mail reported that Belgian paralympian Marieke Vervoot had revealed that she was getting ready to end her life. She signed euthanasia papers in 2008 so that she could decide when to stop living because of the constant pain she felt from an incurable and degenerative spinal disease.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, Vervoot said she did not want to suffer any longer as the pain had reached an intolerable level. She also revealed that she had already written letters to the loved ones she would leave behind when she dies.