News Articles

Senate vote pushes Belgium near legalization of euthanasia

WASHINGTON (BP)–Belgium appears certain to become the second country to legalize euthanasia.

The Belgian Senate recently passed a bill permitting euthanasia by a 44-23 vote. Approval by the Chamber of Deputies seems to be a foregone conclusion and is likely to occur this year, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

When the legislation becomes law, Belgium will join The Netherlands as the only countries to allow doctors to end their patients’ lives lawfully. The Dutch legislature gave final approval to euthanasia in April.

Southern Baptist bioethicist Ben Mitchell called the Belgian vote “a gruesome reminder that the culture of death is a global culture.”

“We are being duped by a cruel hoax that says either you must die an agonizing death, soaked in your own vomit, or you can exit painlessly with a physician’s assistance,” said Mitchell, a consultant for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago. “That’s not a dignified death; it is medicalized murder. There’s a better way to die than either of those alternatives.

“Palliative care — including effective pain management, hospice and compassionate care — is both morally and medically superior to death at a doctor’s hands. The so-called ‘death with dignity movement’ is indeed the death of human dignity,” Mitchell said.

The Belgian action is expected to encourage campaigns for such a law in Australia, England, France and Italy, The Guardian reported.

Christian organizations in Belgium strongly oppose the measure, according to The Guardian.

“The text goes too far,” said Sen. Clothilde Nyssens of the Christian Democrat Party after the Oct. 25 vote, The Guardian reported. “We know lots of doctors who don’t like this law, who are afraid it gives them too much freedom.”

The legislation will allow a practice that has been utilized already by some doctors treating terminally patients. To be eligible to undergo euthanasia under the measure, a person must be 18 years old and have made voluntary, repeated requests, The Guardian reported. Such a request can be approved only if it is written and if the patient is terminally ill, suffering constantly and has sound mental faculties, according to the newspaper.

There is also an allowance, however, for a person who is not in the late stages of a terminal illness to have his life ended by a doctor, if the physician gains a second opinion, according to The Guardian.