‘Beware sinister expansion of euthanasia’

A Washington Post columnist has highlighted the “sinister” expansion of euthanasia to the mentally ill in Belgium and the Netherlands, warning that the US should not follow suit.

Charles Lane’s article came ahead of MPs at Westminster debating and voting on an assisted suicide Bill on Friday.

Lane referred to Belgium, where doctors may legally prescribe a “vulnerable, desperate” person with depression a fatal dose of drugs, and where children of any age can be euthanised.

Offered lethal injection

He cited an article by Lieve Thienpont, a psychiatrist at a Belgian clinic, which said that doctors had offered a lethal injection to 48 patients between 2007 and 2011 who had depression or schizophrenia, or, in several cases, Asperger’s syndrome.

In the Netherlands, Lane noted, “activists opened a clinic in March 2012 to ‘help’ people turned down for lethal injections by their regular physicians”.

A medical journal report showed that in the following twelve months, “the clinic approved euthanasia for six psychiatric patients, plus 11 people whose only recorded complaint was being ‘tired of living'”.

Validate concerns

Lane pointed to observations made by bioethicists Barron H. Lerner and Arthur L. Caplan, who said that medical reports from these countries “seem to validate concerns about where these practices might lead”.

Lieve Thienpont’s co-author is the controversial euthanasia doctor Wim Distelmans.

Lane pointed out that Distelmans has ended the lives of a 44-year-old, because he was depressed by his “botched sex-change operation”, and a pair of identical 45-year-old deaf twins who said they “lost the will to live upon learning they would eventually go blind”.

He also said it is “noteworthy” that the tendency for euthanasia in Europe has been for it to expand “once the taboo against physician-aided death was breached in favor of more malleable concepts such as ‘patient autonomy'”.

Right becomes obligation

He highlighted Belgian law professor Étienne Montero, who said: “What is presented at first as a right is going to become a kind of obligation”.

What is presented at first as a right is going to become a kind of obligation

Étienne Montero,Belgian law professor

Lane concluded: “The United States, like Europe, is aging, with all that implies for the spread of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

“If pressure rises for more doctor-assisted death, Lerner and Caplan insist, ‘physicians must remain primarily healers.’

Slippery slope

“‘Part of the problem with the slippery slope,’ they write, ‘is that you never know when you are on it.'”

Opponents of the assisted suicide Bill have set up the website notoassistedsuicide.org.uk to enable people to contact their MP ahead of Friday’s vote.