CNS News 18 June 2015
A study published this month in the Journal of Medical Ethics examined the “deliberate” euthanasia of patients in Belgium without their explicit, voluntary consent as required by law.
The study’s author, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the United Kingdom’s Hull University, found that life-ending drugs were used “with the intention to shorten life and without explicit request” in 1.7 percent of all deaths in Belgium in 2013.
In 52.7 percent of these cases, the patients were 80 years of age or older. The decision to euthanize was not discussed with the patient in 77.9 percent of the cases because he/she was comatose, had dementia, or “because discussion would have been harmful to the patient’s best interest,” according to the study.
Belgium passed the Euthanasia Act in 2002, which states that only voluntary euthanasia is legally permissible.
A 2010 research study conducted in Flanders revealed that only one out of every two euthanasia cases was reported to Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee because most non-reporting physicians did not view the active hastening of their patients’ deaths as euthanasia.
Unreported cases were also generally handled less carefully than reported cases and “the lethal drugs were often administered by a nurse alone, not by a physician,” the study noted.
“Whether deliberately or not, the physicians were disguising the end-of-life decision as a normal medical practice,” Cohen-Almagor pointed out.