In a court decision that takes euthanasia – the deliberate killing of people sometimes with their approval – to an entirely new level, judges in Belgium have ordered a nursing home to pay a fine and damages to the family for refusing to allow a fatal injection for a patient.
“It is now black and white that an institution cannot intervene in an agreement between doctor and patients,” Sylvie Tack, a lawyer for the family of the 74-year-old woman told Catholic Herald.
The case developed for the St. Augustine rest home, a Catholic facility, in Diest when Mariette Buntjens, reportedly agreed to euthanasia with her doctor.
However, the rest home officials refused to allow the procedure, so the woman instead was moved to a private address where shortly later she died.
The woman’s family then sued, alleging the nursing home caused “unnecessary mental and physical suffering,” the Herald reported.
“A civil court in Louvain upheld the complaint and fined the home 3,000 (euros) and ordered it to pay compensation of 1,000 (euros) to each of Mrs. Buntjens’ three adult children.”
The report said the judges found the nursing home “had no right to refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection.”
The Herald warned of the consequences of the ruling, explaining, “The judgment could spell the closure of scores of Catholic-run nursing and care homes across Belgium because the church has stated explicitly that it will not permit euthanasia ‘under any circumstances.'”
According to the Christian Institute, Labour MP Robert Flello said the result of the court ruling is “worrying.”
“It shows yet again that life is held in such low regard in Belgium,” he said.
And UK Baroness Finlay, professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University, responded by calling for Britain to “learn from the exerience of others” and continue to reject euthanasia.
Just last year, parliament there voted 330-to-118 to decline a bill to legalize the killing procedures.
Finlay noted that where euthanasia has been adopted, such deaths have risen dramatially.
“She noted that between 2014 and 2015 in Oregon, assisted suicide deaths rose by a staggering 80 percent. In the Netherlands, assisted suicide or euthanasia accounted for one in every2 6 deaths in the country last year,” the report said.
Finlay noted, “Every doctor has been faced with the question: how long have I got? The answer in many cases is only a best guess. Yet accurate prognosis is an important factor in any decision to end it all. The assisted dying bills presented to parliament in the UK treat prognosis as if it’s a scientific tool. It isn’t.”
The Herald said a euthanasia advocate in Belgium, Wim Distelmans, said, “This is an important case because the judge sees the nursing home as an extension of a private home. When other institutions now want to reject euthanasia, they will think twice before they prohibit access to a doctor.”
Flello, however, warned about looking at euthanasia as “a right.”
“If you look around the world, anywhere assisted suicide has been introduced there is a constant erosion of any safeguards that have been put in place. This a further leap down the slippery path warned about time and time again and it shows that those warnings were true,” he told the Herald.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2003. Critics allege the law is so liberal lethal injections literally are available on demand, with known cases of those who are disabled or mentally ill.
“Deaf twins Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45, were granted their wish to die in December 2012, for instance, after they learned they were likely to go blind, and Nancy Verhelst, 44, a transsexual, was also killed by lethal injection after her doctors botched her sex change operation, leaving her with physical deformities she felt made her look like a ‘monster’,” the Herald reported.
The report said there were 2,021 such deaths in 2015.