Euthanasia Spreads in Europe
Several nations find themselves far down the slippery slope.


Wesley J. Smith

Most recently, four cases of euthanasia followed by organ harvesting were reported in the journal Applied Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology. Note, three of the cases involved patients with neuromuscular disabilities, and one was a mentally ill patient. From the chilling paper, “Initial Experience with Transplantation of Lungs Recovered from Donors after Euthanasia”:

Three donors were offered by the transplant coordination team of the University Hospital Antwerp and one donor by our local donor office. Euthanasia request was granted by an independent team of physicians not taking care of the transplant recipients. The donors suffered from an unbearable physical or mental disorder. All donors explicitly and voluntarily expressed their wish to become an organ donor once their request for euthanasia was granted.

Tying euthanasia to organ donation crosses a very dangerous bridge, giving Belgian society a utilitarian benefit from mercy killing, as it informs despairing, disabled, or mentally ill people that their deaths have greater value than their lives. But rather than an outcry, as it would have have been the reaction not too long ago, we instead witness articles written by the harvesters in respected medical journals dispassionately describing the entire process.

But wait, there’s more: Belgian doctors have performed joint euthanasia of a non-terminal elderly couple who didn’t want to live apart should one die — and medical “ethicists” cheered, one telling an interviewer:

Non-terminal partners, as we call them, also have the option of dying together. It’s legally possible. There are no legal difficulties. People think that euthanasia can only be applied to terminal cancer patients. But the group is a lot bigger. . . . And this is a beautiful example that allows us to provide a dignified death to this couple thanks to euthanasia and proper guidance.

But it’s all about “choice,” right? Not necessarily. Non-voluntary euthanasia is common in the Netherlands. So too now in Belgium, but at an even higher rate. For example, a study conducted by the Canadian Medical Association found that about half of the nearly 500 euthanasia deaths the authors investigated were non-voluntary. Some of the patients were even killed by nurses. Both killing without request and euthanasia by nurse violate Belgian law, but as in the Netherlands, the law is rarely enforced.

Meanwhile, the number of euthanasia deaths in Belgium is soaring, increasing 100 percent between 2008 (when there were about 500 reported euthanasia killings) and 2011, in which it is projected that there will be 1,000. That probably undercounts the actual toll significantly. A study in the British Medical Journal estimated that in Flanders, only about 50 percent of euthanasia deaths are actually reported, as required by law.

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the early 1940s. But suicide entrepreneurs have taken the practice to a whole new level, opening for-pay suicide clinics where people from all over the world come to die — a phenomenon known in the media as “suicide tourism.”

Suicide tourism is not by any means limited to the terminally ill. For example, a recent death involved an active elderly woman with arthritis pursuing suicide as a prophylactic against, according to her suicide note, “a long period of decline.” There have also been, as in Belgium, joint suicides of elderly spouses who didn’t wish to live after the other passed away. In another case that garnered much press attention, U.K. parents took their son, who had become quadriplegic in a rugby accident, to Switzerland for suicide — and then used their grief as a means of promoting legalization in Britain, the idea being that the young man should have been able to have help in killing himself at home.