Friday, 25 April 2014

Another complaint against euthanasia 'pioneer' in Belgium

Belgian and European news websites are reporting that a second complaint against Dr Wim Distelmans in respect to a euthanasia death has been made to Belgian authorities.

The first complaint, made in February this year was reported by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - Europe website and concerned the death of Godelieva De Troyer. The complaint was lodged by her son, Tom Mortier. From the original report:
Mortier along with Dr Georges Casteur, allege that Distelmans did not have the expertise to evaluate whether Godelieva De Troyer, was ready for voluntary euthanasia. Distelmans is an oncologist, not a psychiatrist and was not even De Troyer's doctor beforehand. She was physically healthy and not suffering from physical pain, and had spoken with psychiatrists who thought that her emotional distress was at least treatable. In fact, she was taking medication at the time, which can cause suicidal ideation - so clearly a treatment plan was in place and it may have been causing serious side-effects. Distelmans, it seems, did not take that into account.
Godelieva De Troyer
Mortier's lawyer, Samuel Vinck, told the Belgian media: "My client has good reason to believe that the law was not correctly applied in the euthanasia of her mother," adding: "We found strong evidence proving that the conditions of the law on euthanasia were not met in this case. My client is entitled to request the competent authorities to investigate the matter."

This new complaint was lodged this month by the 20 year old daughter of the as-yet-unnamed woman who was, likewise, killed by Dr Distelman. In an interview with the magazine Dag Allemaaal, the young woman asked how her mother "never received treatment for her depression, could benefit from euthanasia."

In both cases, Distelmans is refusing to comment, but has said that all legal requirements for euthanasia were met.

Dr Distelmans
Dr Distelmans is President of the Belgian Control Commission of euthanasia that reviews the reported cases of euthanasia. The Belgian Catholic media has publicly questioned his roles as both a practitioner of euthanasia and the chief government appointed reviewer. Distelmans also holds senior positions on a number of other related bodies which the Catholic Press suggest are 'incompatible'. 

Tom Mortier once observed on US television that, if euthanasia is about relieving suffering, then what about his suffering and that of his family on being denied information about his mother's pending euthanasia. It would seem that the young woman in the second case would echo Mortier's sentiments.

This lack of involvement of family members in the care of a relative by Distelmans is, in reality, the ultimate perverse outworking of the elevation of the 'autonomy principle' to a point where it is clearly beyond question. Distelman's work in palliative care settings must also be questioned if, indeed, this is his guiding principle simply because good palliative care seeks to be inclusive of family and friends in its approach.

Beware! The next time someone bleats about, 'my life, my choice in how I end it' remind them that ideas have consequences and, while such consequences can and have been accurately predicted over decades now, we can easily find actual proofs in Belgium.


  1. A statistically more or less constant percentage of people kill themselves annually without asking for counselling, without warning someone in advance, or even for that matter asking for advice on what means they should use to kill themselves. Gruesome means like hanging, jumping, gunshot, overdose etc are employed. It is convenient to blame a high profile doctor (for probably political reasons) but who is to say this woman would not have used a less humane method if she had not had this doctor to go to? She was a responsible adult, had sought treatment, and after a long time she made a decision. I think that was her right. And by the way, where was her son this whole time? Is this a case of too little family involvement, too late?

  2. Hi Nic. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard this line of argument. It really is quite pathetic, sorry to say. These people are taking a 'high profile' doctor to the courts because they are deeply aggrieved at the loss of a loved one. The family circumstances of either are none or your or my business and it is both crude and cruel to make light of it as you have with your suppositions. Isn't it enough that both lost their mothers, both new nothing about it and, in both cases, neither of them were actually ill? It is specious in the extreme to suggest - as is the logical conclusion of your argument - that all people intent on killing themselves should be provided with a clean and easy way to do it. Listen to yourself - in an effort to support your cause you have lost perspective and appear not to give a $%^& about humanity and genuine compassion.