The Belgian medical establishment’s enthusiastic embrace of euthanasia has been breathtaking and appalling to behold. Now a study is out stating that a euthanasia counseling service is being underutilized by Belgian doctors. From” Implementation of a service for physicians’ consultation and information in euthanasia requests in Belgium,” (Abstract only linked), published in Health Policy:
In the year following the enactment of the Belgian euthanasia law in September 2002, a special non-governmental service called the Life End Information Forum (LEIF) was created in Flanders by individuals (physicians, psychologist) with experience in palliative care together with the association Right to Die With Dignity.
Of course. Pro euthanasia types. But according to the study, not enough doctors have referred euthanasia questioning patients to the
persuasion counseling service:
With over three quarters of those physicians who are potentially involved in end-of-life care and who work in the region covered by LEIF knowing of its existence, and almost 90% indicating they would consult a LEIF physician in future euthanasia requests, the implementation of LEIF can be considered to be relatively successful. The figure of 35% of those having received a euthanasia request since the founding LEIF and who had actually used the LEIF service, however, can be considered on the low side.
Oh no! What to do?
In order to encourage physicians to make use of the LEIF service for consultation, LEIF should continue promoting its services as widely as possible. Promoting LEIF in hospitals to specialists who are used to consulting with colleagues from within the hospital would also be helpful in order to guarantee the legal requirement of independence. Support from the government, e.g. in the form of reimbursement for the consultation, would formalize LEIF as a consultation service and would therefore also increase the use of the service.
What are we to make of this? Clearly, there are powerful forces in Belgium and elsewhere that hope one day euthanasia will become the rule in human dying rather than the exception. Indeed, I could see in a few decades-if it takes that long–that the expectation will be for terminally ill, frail elderly, and permanently seriously disabled to take the euthanasia way out.
Why might this be? I can think of many factors, but I’ll only suggest a few:
- An aggressively secular outlook that sees no intrinsic value in human life and sees eliminating the sufferer as a splendid way to prevent suffering. Lest you doubt me, recall the celebration of the joint euthanasia of an elderly couple who were not ill and the Belgian bioethicist calling it as a “normal way of dying.”
- Financial concerns mixed with a quality of life ethic that would direct medical resources away from caring for expensive and dependent patients to those who can “benefit” from treatment. What “treatment” is cheaper than killing? One can imagine expensive treatments being rationed and counseling to push euthanasia as the proper approach for patient, family, and society–accompanies by societal expectation.
- The hope to make utilitarian use of suicidal patients, such as in organ harvesting which is already happening in Belgium.
- A metastasizing nihilism that breeds the culture of death.
As I look back over my nearly 20 years of anti euthanasia advocacy and see how far matters have slipped–and imagine what it would be had we not continued to stand against the agenda–I keep hearkening back to the words of Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne who was appalled at the popular support for Robert Latimer after he murdered his daughter Tracy because she had cerebral palsy:
A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.
Alas, Coyne’s warning is turning into a prophesy.