Belgium Catholic Cardinal Opposes Expanding Assisted Suicide Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 15, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 15
, 2007

Brussels, Belgium (LifeNews.com) — A leading Catholic official in Belgium is speaking out against expanding legalized assisted suicide in the European nation. Belgium is just one of a handful of nations, along with Switzerland, the Netherlands and the state of Oregon, where physicians helping patients kill themselves is allowed.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels says he and the Catholic Church are opposed to expanding legalized assisted suicide to include children and mentally disabled patients who can’t make their own medical decisions.

Danneels told the medical journal De Huisarts that the additional assisted suicide cases would be "unacceptable."

He said extending the grisly practice in those cases is particularly troubling “because those people can no longer make the decision themselves; they don’t have the choice to say Yes or No.”

“Others decide," he added, according to a Catholic World News report.

Cardinal Daniels called on Catholics to contact their elected officials and oppose any expansion of the assisted suicide law.

The law has already come under fire from the Catholic Church and other pro-life advocates and received additional opposition in December 2005 when a Belgian doctor was accused of killing five elderly nursing home patients via euthanasia in the small town of Oostende.

The patients were all suffering from dementia and the doctor is accused of killing them with lethal injections.
The doctor, identified only as Boudewijn D.W., admitted administering the treatment, but denied murdering his patients. He says he discussed the injections with the patient’s families and nursing staff.

However, the nursing home, Sint-Monica, reported the deaths to authorities and the doctor was arrested.

To be legal, assisted suicide requests must come directly from the patient, not the doctor and the physician must be certain the patient is suffering from an incurable disease. The physician is also required to obtain a second opinion from another doctor in addition to consulting the patient’s family and nursing team.

Bishop Andre-Mutien Leonard of Belgium spoke against euthanasia at a Vatican press conference in 2005. He said pro-life people need to work together in Europe to stop the spread of the grisly practice.

"People have to be educated to vote. There has to be the desire to promote a debate and form a lobby (against euthanasia)," Bishop Leonard explained.

He also urged expansion of palliative care for the elderly and disabled to make the desire for ending one’s life less prevalent.