Belgian Brothers of Charity defy Vatican over euthanasia

The group has refused to reverse its decision to allow euthanasia in its hospitals

Catholic Herald

The Belgian Brothers of Charity have defied the Pope and announced they will continue offering euthanasia at their hospitals despite being ordered to stop.

The group said in a statement that it “continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation” and that they “emphatically believe” the practice is compatible with Catholic teaching . . . [Full text]

 

Pope demands that Belgian Catholic hospitals stop euthanasia

BioEdge

Michael Cook

Earlier this year a group of Catholic hospitals and clinics for the mentally ill in Belgium announced that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on its premises. The group is linked to a religious order, the Brothers of Charity.

Earlier this month Pope Francis issued an ultimatum: this must stop by the end of August. He also ordered the three Brothers who serve on the 15-member board to sign a letter stating that  they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

If the board refuses, the hospitals could lose their affiliation with the Catholic Church.

One of the board members is Herman Van Rompuy, a former President of the European Council and Belgian Prime Minister. He tweeted that “The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ is long past.”

Brother René Stockman, the head of the Brothers of Charity, is a Belgian but opposes the stand taken by the local members of his own order. He commented: “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection.”

A spokesman for the Belgian group acknowledged that it had received a letter from the Vatican but said that it had not yet responded.

 


This article was published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.

 

Top European leader blasts Pope for telling Catholic hospitals not to euthanize patients

Lifesite News

Lisa Bourne

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The former European Council president took a shot at papal authority on social media last weekend, inferring that Pope Francis should not have input on whether a Belgian Catholic religious order allows its hospitals to euthanize patients.

“The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ has long been over,” Herman Van Rompuy tweeted in Dutch on Sunday.

The phrase ‘Roma locuta causa finite,’ is Latin for “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.” It originates from an early fifth-century statement by St. Augustine and references the ultimate authority held by the pope.

The tweet was in reply to canon law professor Kurt Marten’s tweet publishing the list of trustees for the Belgian Brothers of Charity, showing Van Rompuy serves on the Board. . . . [Full Text]

 

Pope orders religious order to stop offering euthanasia in its hospitals

Aleteia

Vatican Radio

A religious congregation is being ordered by the pope to stop offering euthanasia in the hospitals it sponsors.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis has ordered the Belgian arm of the Brothers of Charity to stop allowing the euthanizing of patients in its psychiatric hospitals. .

Pope Francis also ordered Brothers of Charity who serve on the group’s board to sign a joint letter to their Superior General declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.” . . .[Full text]

Everybody’s a winner when euthanasia combines with organ donation, say doctors

BioEdge

Michael Cook

Several Dutch and Belgian doctors have proposed legal reforms to increase the popularity of combining euthanasia and organ donation in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, they report valuable unpublished information about the prevalence of the procedure. So far, it has been performed only about 40 times in the two countries. However, there is “a persisting discrepancy between the number of organ donors and the number of patients on the waiting lists for transplantation” – which euthanasia patients could help to balance.

The authors stress that euthanasia is not a cure-all for the organ shortage. Most euthanasia patients suffer from cancer, which is a contraindication for organ transplantation. However, 25 to 30% of them do not, so there is obviously a real possibility of expanding the supply.

Furthermore, the authors say, public perception of this formerly abhorrent practice is increasingly positive:

. . . transplant coordinators in Belgium and the Netherlands notice a contemporary trend towards an increasing willingness and motivation to undergo euthanasia and to subsequently donate organs as well, supported by the increasing number of publications in popular media on this topic.

Ethically, the procedure is basically uncontroversial as long as the patient is not pressured to donate, they contend.

In the context of organ donation after euthanasia, the right of self-determination is a paramount ethical and legal aspect. It is the patient’s wish and right to die in a dignified way, and likewise his wish to donate his organs is expressed. Organ donation after euthanasia enables those who do not wish to remain alive to prolong the lives of those who do, and also—compared with ‘classical’ donation after circulatory death—allows many more people to fulfil their wish to donate organs after death.

However, there are some legal hitches in both countries. In the Netherlands, unlike Belgium, euthanasia is regarded as an “unnatural death” which has to be reported to the public prosecutor. This could delay donations. If the law were changed to allow the cause of death to be reported as the underlying condition, the procedure would be more expeditious. And “In Belgium, the current policy of determination of death by three independent physicians could be abandoned, facilitating a more lean procedure with only one physician.”

Public perceptions need to be managed as well. At the moment, it is necessary to maintain a strict separation between the request for euthanasia and the need for the organ. Partly this is needed to ensure that the donor is not being pressured. But the public also needs to have confidence that physicians will give objective advice.

Finally, there is the tradition of the dead donor rule “that donation should not cause or hasten death”. The authors imply that this could be scrapped for euthanasia volunteers:

Since a patient undergoing euthanasia has chosen to die, it is worth arguing that the no-touch time (depending on the protocol) could be skipped, limiting the warm ischaemia time and contributing to the quality of the transplanted organs. It is even possible to extend this argument to a ‘heart-beating organ donation euthanasia’ where a patient is sedated, after which his organs are being removed, causing death.

The article’s proposals were not received with great enthusiasm in the UK where there is a simmering debate on assisted dying. Tory MP Fiona Bruce told the Daily Mail: “The paper confirms the worst fears expressed by Parliament when the House of Commons conclusively voted to stop the legalisation of assisted suicide in this country. The possibility of euthanasia achieved through live organ donation, such as by removing a patient’s beating heart, as posited in this paper is shocking and chilling.”

And Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Liberal Democrat peer who is a leading lawyer, said: “I have extreme concerns about the ghoulish nature of the combined euthanasia and organ donation systems in the Netherlands and Belgium. Both can result in unbearable and irresistible pressure on an individual to die, and on a doctor to encourage death.”


cclicense-some-rightsThis article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 

Legal and ethical aspects of organ donation after euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands

Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2015-102898

Jan Bollen

Abstract

Organ donation after euthanasia has been performed more than 40 times in Belgium and the Netherlands together. Preliminary results of procedures that have been performed until now demonstrate that this leads to good medical results in the recipient of the organs. Several legal aspects could be changed to further facilitate the combination of organ donation and euthanasia. On the ethical side, several controversies remain, giving rise to an ongoing, but necessary and useful debate. Further experiences will clarify whether both procedures should be strictly separated and whether the dead donor rule should be strictly applied. Opinions still differ on whether the patient’s physician should address the possibility of organ donation after euthanasia, which laws should be adapted and which preparatory acts should be performed. These and other procedural issues potentially conflict with the patient’s request for organ donation or the circumstances in which euthanasia (without subsequent organ donation) traditionally occurs. [Full text]

New Belgian law aims to force doctors into euthanasia

 LifeSite News

Jeanne Smits

BRUSSELS, March 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A handful of Belgian lawmakers are trying to obtain a radical change to the rules governing euthanasia in the country, where so-called “mercy-killing” has been legal since 2002.

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. 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. The changes also include enhanced rights attached to a patient’s “living will” as well as the negation of the right to conscientious objection for institutions. . . [Full text]

 

Belgian lawmakers to vote on world’s first death on demand law which would mean no doctor could stop a patient who wants to die

 Law is said to have high chance of getting support from parliamentarians

The Daily Mail

Steve Doughty

The world’s first ‘death on demand’ law is set to go before legislators in Belgium who have already ushered through an ultra-liberal euthanasia regime.

The new rules would mean no doctor would be allowed to block the wishes of a patient who asked to die.

The law – put forward by the country’s opposition socialist party – is thought to have a high chance of commanding support from a majority of parliamentarians.

They come at a time when numbers dying each year under the euthanasia laws have doubled in five years to reach more than 2,000. . . [Full text]

 

More bracket creep in Belgian euthanasia

BioEdge

Michael Cook

Three bills which could significantly expand the scope of euthanasia in Belgium have been proposed by Laurette Onkelinx, the leader of the Belgian Socialists and a former Deputy Prime Minister.

The first (PDF) would remove a five-year sunset clause for advance declaration of a patient’s willingness to accept euthanasia. This would mean that a document written 20 or 30 years before would be valid, no matter what a patient might have thought in recent times.

The second (PDF) would force doctors to give a rapid turn-around to requests for euthanasia. They would have to answer within seven days. If they refused, they would have to transfer the patient’s file to a doctor who would be willing to give a lethal injection. This threatens to remove physicians’ right to conscientious objection to euthanasia. It would also force doctors to treat a request as a matter of urgency, even though it might have come during a psychological crisis which would soon pass.

The third (PDF) would remove the right of institutions like hospitals or nursing homes to refuse to allow euthanasia on their premises. Ms Onkelinx insists that institutions have no right to conscientious objection; only doctors do. Her bill affirms a doctor’s right to follow his conscientious belief in the practice of euthanasia. In an explanatory memorandum, she invokes the principle that “a doctor can be neither forced to nor prevented from practicing euthanasia in legal conditions, wherever he might be.”

Although the proposals are radical, they have hardly been reported, even in the Belgian media.


 

cclicense-some-rightsThis article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 

Dying Dutch: Euthanasia Spreads Across Europe

Newsweek

Winston Ross

In one of the last photographs my family took of my grandmother, she looks as if she’s been in a fistfight. Jean Bass Tinsley is lying in a hospital bed in Athens, Georgia, wearing a turquoise button-up shirt and staring blankly at the camera. A bandage obscures her fractured skull, along with the bridge of her bloodied nose. She is 91 years old.

My grandmother essentially did this to herself. In June 2013, she fell out of her wheelchair headfirst, after ignoring her caregivers’ warnings not to get out of bed without help. Earlier that year, she’d broken both of her hips, in separate falls. Before that, her pelvis-all while trying to do what for most of her life she’d managed just fine on her own: walk.

In her last year, dementia crept into my grandmother’s mind. The staff at her long-term-care facility plotted ways to protect her from herself. It’s against the law in Georgia to restrain patients in such facilities, so they lowered her bed to the floor and put a pad down next to it. They even installed an alarm that went off if she left her mattress. My grandmother disabled the alarm, moved the pad and freed herself, repeatedly. In the end, she was both too weak and too strong. [Full text]