Meet Tom Mortier. He’s a university lecturer, who received a message at work that his 64-year-old mother had been euthanized the previous day. He had no idea this was happening.
“This is suicide with the approval of society,” he said of her death. “This has nothing to do with euthanasia.”
His mother was not terminally ill, but suffered from depression.
Quebec is currently debating legalizing euthanasia, Belgium style. Bill 52 has passed second reading and is now being discussed in committee. But Belgium’s euthanasia experience has been fraught with problems, abuse and people being killed without their consent. This article concedes the following:
When Belgium legalized euthanasia, there were assurances that it would be tightly controlled and limited to exceptional cases. But the number of cases rises every year – reaching nearly 2% of total deaths last year — and the definition of what is acceptable is expanding. The country’s Senate is currently debating a proposal to permit euthanasia of minors with a “capacity of discernment” and of people suffering from dementia.
But fails to mention even more harrowing statistics, namely that studies in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (June, 2010) indicated that the law was widely abused. Almost one-third of euthanasia deaths were illegally performed without patient consent. And half of nurses administering euthanasia did so without the patients knowledge and consent.
The researchers found that a fifth of nurses admitted being involved in the assisted suicide of a patient. But nearly half of these – 120 of 248 – also said there was no consent.
“The nurses in our study operated beyond the legal margins of their profession,” said the report’s authors in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
“It is likely many nurses ‘ under-reported’ their involvement for fear of admitting an illegal activity,” the study said.
After his first-hand experience with euthanasia, Mr. Monteros has gone from indifferent to vehemently opposed, and actively so.
Mr. Montero’s warning to Canadians is that once euthanasia is allowed, even supposedly for the most exceptional cases, it opens a crack that will widen over time. “I believe that once you accept the principle of euthanasia, we do not know how to set the limits or how to assure control of its practice,” he said. “We set strict conditions but we do not stick to them, not at all. Why? I think because euthanasia is made banal. It becomes a dignified exit. It becomes more and more normal.”
Interestingly, as often happens when euthanasia exists in a society, when you can’t get the opinions you want from your doctor, you shop around until you find someone who will give you that 99th facelift or the IVF procedure when you are well past childbearing age. In the case of Mrs. Monteros, she did just that. Obviously, most physicians would have counseled her to get help for her depression, but one, the one who killed her, gave in to her wishes.
She had essentially gone euthanasia shopping after initially being refused. Eventually she found a psychiatrist who concluded her depression was incurable and her suffering unbearable, and Dr. Distelmans performed the euthanasia.
“What he created is unbearable suffering for me,” Mr. Mortier said.