With the anticipated passage of a new law in Belgium, doctors will be ordered to perform euthanasia — euphemized as “mercy killings” — on their patients in a process that was legalized in 2002.
Many are in a quandary as to why Belgian lawmakers are pressing for a more aggressive euthanasia bill — especially since the country already has some of the most lax laws regarding assisted suicide in Europe and beyond.
“Not content with one of the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world, the socialist representatives now want to oblige doctors who have conscientious objections to killing their patients asking for euthanasia, to refer them to a doctor who is prepared to do so,” LifeSiteNews reports. “This has been interpreted as a sort of new obligation to accede to all euthanasia requests within a very short period of time, and the wording of the proposed legislation supports this.”
Belgian newspapers have reportedly been very moot about the latest legislative developments, which include augmented “living will” rights for patients, as well as the reneging of the right of institutions to make conscientious objections to assisted suicide. Six socialist members of Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives submitted three draft laws to bolster euthanasia throughout the nation, with the first unsuccessful attempt rejected by Parliament in 2013.
Gaining more attention from the media abroad, the new controversial law shocked many in England.
“Belgian lawmakers [will] vote on world's first death on demand law which would mean no doctor could stop a patient who wants to die,” the United Kingdom’s The Daily Mail reported. “[Belgium’s laws] have a high chance of getting support from parliamentarians.”
But anti-life legislators may be in for another challenge this year, as draft law 1677/001 — which forces the referral of patients to physicians willing to perform euthanasia — flies in the face of the law it sets out to change. The current law does not give patients requesting to be euthanized the right to have it performed. Only the doctor has the right to make the final determination as to whether or not it will be carried out — after a number of legal requirements are met.
After analyzing the text of the new law, which was presented by Laurette Onkelinx, Belgian doctors’ right to assert their conscientious objection would essentially be cancelled out. However, the existing law cannot force physicians to perform the procedure against their will.
“Nothing — for as long as it lasts — can oblige a physician to administer a lethal injection to a patient who is asking for one,” LifeSiteNews’ Jeanne Smits reports. “But much as doctors refusing to do abortions are in many countries obliged to refer women to a practitioner who is known to perform them, making them complicit to the act, the Belgian representatives want to ensure that candidates for euthanasia are put in contact with a doctor who is willing for them to obtain the procedure.”
Euthanize … or else …
With the new law, doctors must deny their conscience or risk termination.
“Draft law 1677/001 sets a seven-day limit for doctors who are faced with a euthanasia request to give their answer, of which they must inform either the patient or his or her person of trust,” the pro-life journalist based in France continued. “The French version of the text adds that the doctor must give reasons for the refusal. These can be linked to conscientious objection or to case-linked objection: at any rate, the doctor is then obliged to communicate the patient’s medical file to ‘another doctor who will accede to his or her euthanasia request,’ says the draft law.”
Under the new law, the second doctor must be prepared to perform euthanasia on his or her patient regardless of the circumstances — or any objections. This directly contradicts current Belgian law.
“[E]uthanasia remains a criminal offense in Belgium: all such acts are supposed not only to meet legal conditions, but to be reported to a commission that decides whether the procedure required investigation or even prosecution,” LifeSiteNews explains. “While it is true that the Belgian commission has seldom, if ever, decided that the law’s criteria — including unbearable suffering — were not met, creating what would appear as a fully-fledged ‘right to die’ would contradict the existing law.”
Even though draft law 1676/001 establishes a “mirror right” to conscientious objection, the amended euthanasia law could still uphold the right to perform euthanasia.
“No doctor can be stopped from performing a euthanasia in virtue of a convention,” the proposed law reads. “When necessary, such a prohibition clause would be deemed unwritten.”
Turning hospitals from institutions of life to centers of death
The new legislation would turn the way many hospitals are run upside down — especially those operating under the biblical principle of the sanctity of human life.
“This means that hospitals, hospices and other institutions would not be allowed to invoke the right to conscientious objection in order to prohibit euthanasia to take place within their walls,” Smits asserts. “The text is a direct attack on those Roman Catholic health care institutions — and all others who want to remain true to their duty of protecting life — that refuse to perform euthanasia. It must be added that most Catholic hospitals are happy to provide it [and] the fact that the euthanasia lobby is relentlessly hunting down the few hospitals where euthanasia is not a matter of course is a sure sign of its totalitarianism.”
The last of the laws being put before Belgian Parliament is set to make it easier for patients get their finances arranged in preparation for their self-inflicted premeditated deaths.
“[T]he third draft law wants to abolish the ‘sunset clause’ attached to living wills, giving them indefinite validity instead of the five-year span in which they are currently taken into account by physicians,” the pro-life advocate explains. “The text underscores the fact that it is often difficult to determine the date when a patient is no longer capable of expressing his or her will, and thus to see whether a living will made in view of such a situation is or not older than five years.”
Smits maintains that there are other foreseeable problems to which this draft law pays little attention.
“While the proposed law does allow patients to put a personal limit on their living will’s validity, the new ‘default setting’ would create a situation where a young person’s living will would be applicable to the aged and changed person he or she would later become,” she concludes. “But that is the whole point of euthanasia: more and more, its proponents want euthanasia to be considered as a right, or at least the ‘right’ solution to situations of age, fragility and dementia.”