Belgium Sees Euthanasia Numbers Increase as Most Cases Go Unreported

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 18, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Belgium Sees Euthanasia Numbers Increase as Most Cases Go Unreported

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 18
, 2010

Brussels, Belgium (LifeNews.com) — New figures out of Belgium show the number of euthanasia cases is on the rise. Last year, 700 official cases of euthanasia were reported — a 40 percent increase from 2008, which saw 500 people killed by physicians with their consent or approval.

Despite the apparent certainty of the numbers, officials told the Flanders News that they are only estimates and that the likely represent merely one-fourth of the total cases of euthanasia in the European nation.

They say that is because euthanasia is guided by very strict limits and conditions even though Belgium is one of the rare nations in the world to allow it.

The News indicates just 25 percent of doctors are said to file an official report with the government when a patient is killed.

The newspaper also interviewed Wim Distelmans, a professor at the Brussels university VUB, who cited vast regional differences in the figures. He says the number of euthanasia cases in Flanders far outpaces those in the rest of the country with 80 percent taking place there.

Distelmans said French speaking physicians are more likely than Flemish and German doctors in Belgium to engage in euthanasia and no report their activities to the government.

American bioethics expert Wesley J. Smith responded to the new figures.

"This is what happens when a country jumps off a vertical moral cliff. First, the euthanasia numbers are climbing dramatically," he said.

"Second, the guidelines become virtually meaningless. As we have seen in the Netherlands, once a society countenances medical killing by doctors, the tend to do anyone they think should be euthanized regardless of the guidelines, and then just don’t report their own lawbreaking," Smith added.

"We are told that legalizing euthanasia makes it all so transparent. We are told it will be strictly restrained by legalization to only the most intractable cases. That pretense is clearly not working in Belgium," Smiths said.

He concludes: "But will that cause the country to backtrack? Not on a bet. Once medicalized killing is accepted, the details cease to matter."

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