Belgium’s Euthanasia Law Draws Catholic Protest

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Euthanasia is becoming a big issue in Europe, and Belgium is one country that allows patients to end their own lives with the aid of a medical team. While there is a lot of regulation and oversight, the issue is extremely problematic and is against all religious laws. The big problem in Belgium started when Cathobel Belgium’s church news service posted on January 9th an article that raised questions about the Federal Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission, stating that it violated its own statutes by failing to investigate suspected legal abuses.

What amazed Auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols of Mechelen-Brussels is that “It’s shocking that, 15 years since its creation, this commission has not referred a single file to prosecutors or condemned a single doctor, “and added that “It is acting as judge and jury, and not fulfilling its role. It isn’t broadening the application of the law, but violating it.”

Supported by Bishop Kockerols, who said to Cathobel on January 11th that the commission was “not working as it should” and that the Church knows that this is a standard lax in the procedure. He added that the Church would support “any steps to ensure it (the commission) functions as it’s supposed to.” He added that “We’re against euthanasia in every form, and the church’s official position is well known.”
The Belgian federal euthanasia commission is headed by Dr. Wim Distelmans, a medical euthanasia practitioner. The commission states that all patients must be verified before approval. However, the number of assisted deaths reported by the commission is growing at an alarming 27% per annum.
The Belgian parliament legalized euthanasia on 28 May 2002, and in December 2013, the Belgian Senate voted in favor of extending its euthanasia law to terminally ill children.

In some reports, abuse of the commission’s regulations shows a number of cases including a dementia patient that was killed without consent were not reported, or the case of a 38-year-old autist that was killed without the regulated documentation.

Bishop Kockerols stated that “Even if there’s little chance for now of legal changes, the church can work on a moral and pastoral level with medical staff and support critical voices.” He added that he was pleased that certain leading Belgians were debating the complexities of euthanasia practice and hoped that they would eventually decide to halt this regulated murder. He concluded that “We’ve been discussing the tougher application of church rules to those who endorse euthanasia. But we also have to be prudent, considering each situation with its nuances.”

Not all is simple in Belgium, even the Catholic organizations there add to the confusion. On August 8th, Pope Francis told the charitable organization Brothers for Charity, a Belgian Catholic Charity that provides psychiatric aid to patients and supports euthanasia for psychiatric patients, that they must stop this practice and sign a letter stating that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

If they do not desist, Pope Francis said that “then also we will start the correct procedure foreseen in canon law.”