Brecht Paumen, who was paralyzed for 12 years after a swimming pool accident, died by euthanasia in Belgium last Friday.
The Belgian media emphasize his disability and his pain, but a closer read of the story links his death to loneliness and isolation.
An article by Marco Mariotti that was published by HLN quotes Paumen’s mother as saying (google translated):
“For four years he lived alone in As. He hoped that friends would come to visit him that way. But unfortunately that did not happen. The home nurse, all adapted devices, you name it. Only the loneliness can hardly cope when the environment drops out. We suggested coming home again, but he refused. And he felt a burden to his parents. Often humiliating circumstances. Then he cried so often. “
In the past year he was trying to regain his ability to walk with assistance, but the article states that he had a set-back in November and December.
Studies show that people who are depressed, lonely or experiencing feelings of hopelessness are far more likely to ask for euthanasia.
A Netherlands study by Marije L van der Lee, et al, found that people who were depressed or had “feelings of hopelessness” were 4.1 times more likely to request euthanasia. This study was significant since van der Lee supported euthanasia and her hypothesis stated: “their clinical impression was that requests for euthanasia were based on well-considered decisions and not depression in the Netherlands.”
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In other words, van der Lee was trying to prove that depression was not connected to requests for euthanasia but instead proved that the opposite is true.
A few years ago the Netherlands euthanasia clinic was reprimanded for lethally injecting a woman because she didn’t want to live in a nursing home.
This sad story brings up two key points.
1. It was normal for Paumen to feel lonely and a loss of purpose. Even if you support euthanasia, loneliness should not be a reason for death by lethal injection.
2. The attitude towards euthanasia of people with disabilities is paternalistic. The article refers to his death as “redeeming” and his mother is quoted as saying that she is “relieved” for her son. I am not suggesting that his mother didn’t love him, but Paumen needed support not pity.
Paumen’s death is tragic, but once killing becomes an acceptable solution to human difficulties then the clear line has been crossed.
Paumen needed human friendship and support not death, but death is what he received.