A ruling to allow a mentally ill Belgian prisoner to be euthanised at his own request has given rise to fears that the practice is becoming excessively tolerated.
Responding to the case of Frank Van Den Bleeken, a prisoner serving a life sentence, an ethics expert said “the law is uncontrollable”.
The move has attracted widespread criticism from groups including a bioethics research facility, a Christian charity and newspaper columnists.
Carine Brochier, project manager at the European Institute for Bioethics, said the case demonstrates the “slippery slope” of euthanasia.
“The sentiment of the ‘slippery slope’ is really there and the law is uncontrollable – it’s not possible to control the application of the law”, she said.
Brochier highlighted that there is a “general mentality” in Belgium which is: “If I’m sick, old or just don’t want to live anymore, I just fill in the form and ask for euthanasia”.
She argued that people in Belgium “don’t invest in palliative care anymore” and that “it’s very fashionable to die in this way”.
The director of Christian charity CARE for Europe, Paul Moynan, also spoke out about the disheartening progress of euthanasia, saying: “With euthanasia being packaged as palliative care, our care homes are not safe.”
He added: “With its extension this year to all ages, our children are not safe. And now the mentally ill in prison are not safe.”
Moynan argued that as Christians “we should be the first to recognise that it is not for us to decide when we die” and “fight any attempt to weaken laws that protect life”.
His defence of the sanctity of life was echoed by Michael Gerson, a columnist for the Washington Post.
Gerson argued that we have a responsibility to “support those with serious physical and mental illness” and “care for those in dark moments”.
He said that “the value of life is high, and particularly demonstrated by the manner in which a society views and treats the vulnerable”.
Writing for the Irish Independent, Ian O’Doherty also criticised the fact that Belgium have “so enthusiastically embraced a euthanasia-for-all policy”.
He posed: “How many Belgian doctors could square their oath with killing a healthy person simply because they were tired of living?”