GHENT, Belgium (AP) — After struggling with mental illness for years, Cornelia Geerts was so desperate to die that she asked her psychiatrist to kill her.
Her sister worried that her judgment was compromised. The 59-year-old was taking more than 20 pills every day, including antidepressants, an opioid, a tranquilizer, and two medicines often used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
About a year later, on October 7, 2014, her doctor administered a lethal dose of drugs. It was all legal procedure in Belgium, which has among the world’s most permissive euthanasia laws.
“I know it was Cornelia’s wish, but I said to the psychiatrist that it was a shame that someone in treatment for years could just be brought to the other side with a simple injection,” said her sister, Adriana Geerts. . . .[Full text]
In July, 2017, Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) practitioners and advocates alleged that patient access to euthanasia and assisted suicide was in danger because of “barriers” and “disincentives” to physician participation. Dr. Stefanie Green, president of their professional association, described the situation as “a crisis.”1 There was, in fact, no crisis — only a false perception of crisis fuelled by unrealistic expectations about levels of physician participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide.2
Nonetheless, it is reasonable for policy makers to respond to their concerns that physicians are discouraged from participating in euthanasia and assisted suicide. Indeed, objecting physicians are less likely to experience disadvantage and coercion if policy-makers seriously consider suggestions by EAS practitioners and advocates about how to encourage physician participation in euthanasia.
Removing barriers and disincentives to physician participation
Minimizing procedural and administrative requirements
Returning to the complaints and concerns of Canadian euthanasia practitioners (see Canada’s Summer of Discontent2), reducing or streamlining procedural requirements and minimizing burdensome paperwork might encourage more physicians to participate. However, this raises a question that may prove difficult to answer. Is a procedural requirement a “barrier” — or a necessary safeguard? A “disincentive” — or an essential ethical prerequisite? The difficulty is illustrated by developments in Belgium. . . .[Full text]
Vatican officials want to hear in person why Brothers of Charity board members insist on allowing the euthanasia
The Vatican is planning to summon members of a Belgian nursing order to Rome to explain why they are refusing to ditch a policy which allows doctors to kill psychiatric patients in Church-run homes.
Senior Vatican officials want to hear in person why board members of the Organisation of the Brothers of Charity insist on allowing the euthanasia of non-terminally ill patients in the face of a top-level order to reverse the policy. . . [Full text]
A furious row has broken out within the Catholic Church over the Belgian Brothers of Charity, who are refusing to comply with a Vatican order to stop providing euthanasia for the people it cares for.
The UK-based Catholic priest Alexander Lucie-Smith has described the behaviour of the Brothers as ‘utterly outrageous,’ and pointed out the crucial fact that the order is lay-run.
In a statement released in Flemish, French and English, the organisation said it ‘continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation’ and goes on to make the incendiary claim that it ‘is still consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. We emphatically believe so.’ . . . [Full text]
The group has refused to reverse its decision to allow euthanasia in its hospitals
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]
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.
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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]
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]
A brusque reversal by the Belgian province of the Order of the Brothers of Charity has led to a lively polemic.
The order has previously always refused to practice euthanasia, which has been legal in Belgium for nearly fifteen years.
But in a document addressed to hospital management and staff of its fifteen psychiatric centers, the Belgium Brothers of Charity in March confirmed its decision to finally authorize medically assisted death, including for its patients who were “in a non-terminal situation”.
No explanation of the reasons for the change
This surprising about face by a Catholic congregation attracted the fire of the Belgian Bishops Conference, the Vatican and the hierarchy of the Order. . . [Full text]
Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, is reportedly looking into the case
The Vatican is investigating the decision of a group of psychiatric care centres run by a Catholic religious order in Belgium to permit doctors to perform euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.
Brother René Stockman, superior general of the Brothers of Charity, told Catholic News Service that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, is personally examining the situation. . . [Full text]